Chef and food writer Rozanne Stevens gives us her chocolate tips ahead of the all-important day of lovers, Valentines Day, this week.

‘Dark chocolate has been proven to have great heart health benefits and to release 'happy hormones' in the brain. Dark chocolate also contains eight times the polyphenol antioxidants found in strawberries, so strawberries dipped in dark chocolate are the perfect treat to share with your valentine’, Rozanne writes.

To get the best from chocolate, Rozanne offers the view that there are three key factors to take into condsideration: quantity, quality and storage. Depending on the quality and quantity of the chocolate, nutritional benefits differ and in order to keep your chocolate as fresh and healthy as possible, correct storage is absolutely necessary.

When reading labels, Rozanne advises ‘avoid chocolate that contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil, preservatives, artificial flavours and high quantities of sugar’.

‘Chocolate contains over three hundred chemicals which have scientists working overtime to unlock its secrets. Some of the most prominent research that has been done is on the antioxidants found in cocoa. These antioxidants have terrific benefits for heart health by lowering high blood pressure through relaxing the blood vessels and improving cholesterol levels.

The antioxidants also protect arteries from free radical damage which the body would 'plaque up' with cholesterol, like plastering a crack.


Top Tips For Enjoying Chocolate:
• Choose a chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70%
• Enjoy one or two blocks a day and up to 100g a week. Reduce the amount if you feel unpleasant stimulant effects
• Avoid 'junky' chocolate with little cocoa and lots of additives and sugar
• Try dark chocolate with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon for a taste sensation and double the antioxidants!
• For after dinner nibbles, put out a bowl of small dark chocolate pieces, dried cranberries and hazelnuts to nibble on
• Alternatively, try dark chocolate pieces with salty peanuts-addictive!
• Store in a cool, dark place with good air circulation. Dark chocolate will last up to a year (if you can resist eating it!)
• To avoid the 'sugar bloom' on chocolate when storing in the fridge, wrap in several layers of foil and then clingfilm
• The 'sugar bloom' is when moisture condenses on the surface of the chocolate, drawing the sugar to the surface to crystallize forming grey or whitish streaks
• If you store your chocolate in the freezer, wrap well and allow to defrost in the fridge