Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and what better way to say "I love you" than with something decadent, delicious – and healthy.
"Celebrating with a special treat made from bright whole foods that are packed with cancer-fighting phytonutrients is probably one of the nicest things to do for someone you care about," says Stephanie Meyers, MS, RD LDN, a nutritionist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
She says desserts don't need to be dipped and coated in sugar and fat. In fact, aiming for a few choice treats from nature is probably just what Cupid intended.
Here are some sweet, and healthy, notions that can be turned into tasty love potions.
I love you "berry" much
Raspberry-honey-tea sorbet is the perfect Valentine's dessert: sweet, red, and robust with berries. What makes it even better is that raspberries are loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants and may even slow down heart disease.
"Raspberries are high in vitamin C, manganese, and phytonutrients anthocyanins and quercetin. These nutrients may help slow cancer cell growth," explains Meyers. They are also one of the few fruits that do not cause a spike in blood sugar, which is important for anyone with diabetes or high blood sugar.
Chocolate-pomegranate kisses say it all. The ruby-red pomegranate fruit packs a powerful punch and is high in the antioxidant ellagic acid, which studies have shown is related to both cancer prevention and slowing the growth of cancer cells.
The chocolate combined in the kisses already has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, and recent studies now show it may help fight cancer. The darker the chocolate, the higher the beneficial properties. Some reports say chocolate can also elevate mood, stimulate endorphins, and prevent signs of aging.
"The key to remember is overall balance in your diet," stresses Meyers. "A small piece of dark chocolate is a perfectly fine treat in the context of a diet rich in vegetables and fruits."
Forget the tango – try a mango
Mango carrot mousse sounds like an exotic treat only served at a vacation destination, but it is quick, easy, and packed with good nutrients that will make anyone kick up their heels.
Mangoes are naturally sweet and rich in a number of different antioxidants. One of them, lupeol, is thought to rid the body of free radicals, which can trigger some forms of cancer and other disease. Some studies show that mango pulp may help in the treatment of prostate cancer, inflammation, arthritis, and diabetes.
Toast the day with a low calorie smoothie that proves opposites do attract. Avocado-berry smoothie is rich with taste and cancer-fighting properties. The red and blue pigment of the berries contains powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins. They protect the plant and in turn can protect humans, especially lowering the risk of recurrence in breast cancer survivors.
"What makes this even more enticing is the low calorie count," points out Meyers. Weight management is important for everyone, but especially for cancer survivors. "By maintaining the healthiest weight possible, survivors can both improve immune function and promote anti-cancer activity in the body."
So reach for the blender, whip up a batch of smoothies and serve chilled in a martini glass as a dessert.
Meyers says that on Valentine's Day, or any day, "The key to keeping desserts healthy is to make sure to limit the amount of fat and sugar and try to use brightly colored fruits and vegetables in your diet."
Find more healthy, cancer-fighting recipes.