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Think Outside the Chocolate Box and Make Your Valentine's Day Healthy

This year for Valentine’s Day you should consider thinking outside of the store-bought chocolate box. The classic gifts of milk chocolate candy and flowers may seem indelibly tied to Valentine’s Day, but you may need to tweak these traditions if you want make your Valentine’s Day healthy. If you are still looking for gift ideas check out the video above "4 Brilliant Ideas for a Healthier Valentine's Day".  

Valentine’s Day is synonymous with romantic love and according to The Week its origins can be traced back to a pagan fertility ritual known as Lupercalia. This raucous festival was incredibly popular until the 5th century A.D. and was a shockingly prurient public spectacle by modern standards. After a sacrifice of goats and a dog, young men fashioned the animal hides into whips and romped through the streets nude looking for maidens to spank in order to boost their fecundity.  

The holiday has long since shed the pagan name and its lewder trappings. The early Christian Church was the first to co-opt the pagan holiday and renamed it after St. Valentine, a martyr who lost his life for performing forbidden marriages in defiance of Emperor Claudius II. 

Before his execution he was said to have sent the first “Valentine” when he gave the jailer’s daughter a final love note. Variations of the Church’s revamped and toned down holiday have since spread around the world — and to think, all of this might trace back to the fact that bird mating season in northern Europe starts around mid-February. 

In the U.S., Valentine’s Day is a sales bonanza for the cut flower industry as a whole, but it is the red rose that dominates. A beautiful flower and a nearly universal symbol of romantic love, nearly 224 million roses are grown in the U.S. each year for Valentine’s Day. The biggest source of cut flowers for Valentine’s Day is Colombia. It provides over 70 percent of the total, and it is here that the dark underpinnings of Valentine’s Day flowers are exposed

The cut flower industry is a one of the heaviest users of toxic pesticides and agricultural chemicals. It is a big business too: Colombia’s flower industry employs more than 100,000 people, many of them single mothers, and the revenue that this industry generates comes at the expense of the workers’ health. More than 200 pounds of pesticides are applied to every 2.4 acres of flowers each year. The World Health Organization classified 36 percent of such chemicals used by one Colombian flower farm as “extremely” or “highly” toxic. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is the catalyst behind the practice of pesticide saturation. They turn back shipments that contain invasive pests and insects, but they do not test the imported flowers for toxic residue. The cost of such flawed regulations is largely borne by the Colombian laborers, but there is no need to introduce poisonous pesticides into your house and present them to your soulmate as a gift. 

A 1990 study looking at the prevalence of reproductive problems in Colombian workers exposed to pesticides while growing flowers found that workers in the floriculture industry were exposed to 127 different types of pesticides. Other commonly reported symptoms were weakness and fatigue, muscle pain, chills and fever, blurred vision, dizziness and headache.

 Flowers grown in the U.S. or the Netherlands are not much better. When the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested rose samples purchased from U.S. retailers, their tests showed the presence of a dozen different pesticides, including two “probable carcinogens.” Two ways to avoid supporting this industry are to either grow your own flowers or purchase organic, fair-trade certified flowers. 

It goes without saying that sugar-laden candy is a less than ideal gift for the love of your life and your love life. This does not mean you should skip out on the chocolates. On the contrary, high-quality dark chocolate is the perfect alternative to toxic flowers. What better way to express the love in your heart than presenting a gift that is actually good for your heart. 

If you enjoy the challenging and bitter flavor of raw cacao (including unsweetened cacao nibs, raw cacao powder or unsweetened (not alkalized) cocoa powder), then that's the absolute best option. Dark chocolate, as bitter as you can tolerate and with a cocoa/cacao percentage of about 70 or higher, is another healthy alternative.

Milk chocolate is a poor choice as it contains both pasteurized milk and large quantities of sugar, which will significantly dampen its health benefits. White chocolate is the worst choice as it contains no cocoa at all. It is no more than a sweetened slurry of pasteurized milk and sugar. 
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