Indulge your sweetie this Valentines Day (or any day of the year!) with this special recipe for a wonderfully rich and delicious treat from our resident nutritionist, Lori.

Heart-Healthy Chocolate Walnut Squares are sure to please any sweet tooth and the recipe contains no refined sugar. In addition, many of the ingredients actually benefit the heart – like cocoa, walnuts, cinnamon, coconut oil and honey. Fast, simple and oh-so-good, you’re going to absolutely love this recipe. Enjoy!

Make sure you goo all the way to the end of this post to get information about the nutritional benefits of the key ingredients.

RECIPE

Ingredients:

4 cups raw walnuts
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup dried figs (remove stems)
1/2 cup medjool dates (pitted)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoon raw honey
2 tablespoon finely chopped pistachios (reserve for garnish)

Instructions:
Blend all ingredients (except pistachios) in a food processor until smooth. Press into an 8×8 glass pan firmly with a spatula. Sprinkle with pistachios. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Cut into small squares and serve. Keep remainder in refrigerator for 3-4 days.

NUTRITIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

Walnuts are extremely nutrient dense and contain cardiovascular protective properties. Arginine an essential amino acid in walnuts allows blood vessels to relax, remain smooth, and prevents platelet aggregation. Walnuts are also a wonderful source of antioxidants, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, and monounsaturated fats

Cocoa is produced from the beans of the Cacao tree, and is the main ingredient in chocolate. In general cocoa is considered to be a rich source of antioxidants and flavanoids, but a growing amount of research suggests that the compounds in cocoa can help protect against high cholesterol, improve blood flow, reduce blood pressure and inflammation.

Cinnamon has a long history of use in both Eastern and Western cultures as a medicine. Cinnamon is helpful in preventing heart disease because of its ability to reduce inflammatory molecules in the blood stream, regulate blood thickness, and normalize blood pressure and blood sugar.

Cayenne pepper contains the compound capsaicin which exerts a number of beneficial effects on pain relief, digestion, and the cardiovascular system. Cayenne pepper has been shown to reduce the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis by reducing blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and the formation of blood clots.

Coconut oil not only is helpful in strengthening the immune system, improving digestion and promoting healthy skin and hair, it may be one of the best things you can eat to protect from heart disease. Coconut oil protects the heart and arteries from injury caused by bacteria, viruses, and free radicals.

Honey, particularly dark honey, is a rich source of antioxidants, which protects cells from free-radical damage. Free- radicals can cause cholesterol to oxidize, which is a well known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.