WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Chocolate is the number one candy to exchange on February 14 for its heart-winning benefits, according to the National Confectioners Association's Chocolate Council. Known to prompt amorous feelings in both men and women, chocolate is the natural elixir of love.
More than good for winning hearts, research continues to show that cocoa and chocolate may offer benefits to support a heart-healthy lifestyle. Packed with healthy antioxidants, cocoa has been deemed a super fruit in its natural state – this means it contains many nutrients that promote good health in a variety of ways.
"Research shows that we have even more reasons to love chocolate and share it with friends and family as a token of affection," said Susan Smith, senior vice president at NCA and a spokesperson for the Chocolate Council. "From its smooth, creamy texture to its decadent flavor, chocolate sparks happiness while providing benefits that you and your loved ones can feel good about enjoying on Valentine's Day."
Cacao beans, the seed of the fruit from the cacao tree, are rich in flavanols. Flavonoids are compounds also found in fruits, vegetables and certain beverages such as tea, red wine and grape juice. Research over the past decade has identified the flavonoids found in cocoa and chocolate as showing positive antioxidant effects. Flavonoid-rich diets are also associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke. While pure cacao from raw cacao beans would provide the most direct benefits, nutritionists report that cacao as found in chocolate supports these health benefits.
And, new research indicates chocolate and cocoa may benefit your body and mind overall. In fact, according to NCA's 2009 Industry Trends Report, leading industry experts say we'll start to enjoy even more benefits of cocoa in the next few years:
- Skin care products will be the next big market expansion when it comes to non-edible cocoa products, experts forecast.
- Nearly one in two experts say consumers can expect to see more research into the potential health benefits of milk and dark chocolate, including exploration of naturally occurring cocoa compounds and positive effects on mood and blood pressure levels.
- Chocolate and cocoa will pop up more frequently as a key ingredient in main courses to enhance flavors alongside salmon, chicken and steak, as reported by 73 percent of experts.
This Valentine's Day, melt hearts and win over your Valentine with the natural love potion, chocolate. This organic food can be enjoyed in many heart-healthy, sweet or savory forms in addition to traditional confections. For example, try dipping fruit and nuts into melted dark chocolate, spooning cocoa powder into your coffee or a low fat glass of milk, sprinkling cocoa on top of cereal, salad or yogurt, or feature chocolate and cocoa as a special ingredient in a delicious romantic dinner recipe. Or delight your sweetheart with cocoa used in non-tradition ways, such as cocoa infused skin care products, lotions and soaps. For more ideas and sweet and savory recipes using chocolate and cocoa, visit www.candyusa.com.
About the National Confectioners Association (NCA): Founded in 1884 in Chicago by representatives of 69 confectionery manufacturing firms, the National Confectioners Association is one of the oldest, most respected trade associations in the world. Today NCA has more than 600 members and is the major association representing the entire confectionery industry, offering education and leadership in manufacturing, technical research, public relations, retailing practices, government relations and statistical analyses. NCA fosters industry growth by advancing and promoting the interests of the confectionery industry, its customers and its consumers.
About the Chocolate Council: NCA's Chocolate Council was created in 2008 to provide a coordinated voice between U.S. chocolate users and manufacturers to focus on unique issues related to chocolate and cocoa. The major U.S. cocoa processors along with many chocolate confectionery companies hold seats on the Council. The Council's mission is to foster industry growth by supporting a positive public perception of chocolate and cocoa; to support activities that increase consumption in a responsible manner and address threats to consumption of cocoa and chocolate products; to serve as an advocate on behalf of the industry; and to monitor the cocoa consumption and supply activities of trade, government and other organizations to ensure a consistent, global effort.
SOURCE National Confectioners Association (NCA)