I’ve never really been one to celebrate cheesy Hallmark holidays like Valentine’s Day, but this year, it’s different. I have a lot to be grateful for this particular V-Day. Last month, my husband went under for routine surgery and came out of it with a stroke. After 24 hours, we realized that his weird symptoms weren’t a bad reaction to anesthesia, but instead, indicative of a stroke. He experienced cognitive decline, slurred speech, severe headache, vertigo, terrible balance issues, blurred and double vision. He couldn’t even sit up in bed let alone walk. When we received confirmation of the bad news, I was in complete shock. How does a pretty healthy guy at only 41 years young have a stroke?? Not only does he need to recover from cervical spine surgery, but now he has to recover from a stroke. Everything about this experience has been completely surreal.
Despite this horrible event, the whole experience has showed me how tough my husband is. It’s going to be a long road to recovery, but he’ll come out of this even stronger and healthier and I am grateful for that.
I know I promised you a Valentine’s treat that’s good for you. But, before I dive into my Valentine’s Day dessert that’s good for your heart, I’d like talk about the warning signs of a stroke. After all, February is Heart Month!
In the U.S., strokes are the 5th leading cause of death and they are mostly PREVENTABLE.
Pay attention to the following warning signs and seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY:
- Sudden numbness in face, legs or arms, especially if symptoms seem to be occurring only on one side of the body.
- Verbal cues including trouble speaking.
- Cognitive signs such as sudden confusion.
- Super painful headaches that come on suddenly.
- Balance issues like sudden dizziness, poor coordination and difficulty walking.
- Sudden difficulty with vision such as blurriness or double vision.
Notice a theme here? Everything happens pretty darn quickly.
While you can’t change certain risk factors like age, genetics, race, gender and history of stroke, there are a number of actions you can take to help prevent a stroke.
To reduce your chances of having a stroke:
- Don’t smoke cigarettes!!! Just don’t do it. Avoid second hand smoke too!
- Exercise daily and get those walking steps in.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant based protein, lean animal proteins & less foods high in sugar, saturated fat, sodium and trans fat.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation: no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
- Keep your stress in check. Practice self care.
- If you have diabetes, control your blood sugar levels.
- If you have high blood pressure, reduce sodium and get those numbers down.
- If you have high cholesterol, improve your levels.
- Make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian to help you live a healthier lifestyle!
Source: American Heart Association
Now to the fun part…dessert!
Who wants Peanut Butter, Banana and Dark Chocolate Frozen Truffles!
With only a few ingredients that are all REAL, WHOLE foods, this deliciously sinful dessert is HEALTHY and good for your heart! Dark chocolate, natural peanut butter and bananas. The oil is in there to make the dipping process easier. I’ve made these truffles without the oil, but the whole dipping process gets really messy and clumpy without it. I love using Thrive Culinary Algae Oil because it is neutral tasting, heart healthy and sustainably produced! It’s seriously also my favorite oil to cook with because of its high smoke point at 485 degrees F.
Peanut butter contains heart healthy fat, antioxidants and even protein and fiber. There’s a lot of junk food peanut butters on the market, so be sure to buy a natural style one that doesn’t contain added sugar or salt.
Not only do bananas taste amazing, but they are great as part of a diet to normalize blood pressure. They’re also loaded with lots of other nutrients besides potassium. They even have vitamin B6, folate and fiber.
And of course there’s chocolate. Glorious, wonderful chocolate. Did you know that chocolate is heart healthy? It may help to lower bad cholesterol and reduce your risk for heart disease, may improve blood flow to the brain, and contains powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidants. That doesn’t mean you can eat all you want, but a little bit of dark chocolate goes a long way! A 2015 study published in Heart journal reported that those who eat up to 100 grams (3.5 ounces, or 1/4 cup chocolate chips) per day, may have a lower risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
If you can handle dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao, that’s the way to go. If that’s a little too bitter for you, drop down to something about 65%, but try to go as high as possible. Enjoy Life makes great 69% cocoa chocolate chips that are also vegan and allergen friendly.
With all of these benefits, it’s needless to say that I will make sure my husband enjoys these peanut butter banana truffles on a regular basis!
These frozen truffles are not only super rich and choclatey, but they are made with healthy ingredients! The oil is used to thin the chocolate to make it easier for dipping. You can forgo the oil, but it will be more difficult to coat the truffles. Don't worry if they don't look like perfectly shaped spheres. They will still look and taste amazing!
- 2 large bananas, peeled ( about 8 ounces without the peel)
- 1/3 cup natural peanut butter, crunchy or smooth (make sure to stir well)
- 1-1/4 cups dark chocolate chips (preferably with a cocoa % of at least 65%)
- 2 teaspoons neutral flavored oil or coconut oil (I prefer to use heart healthy Thrive Culinary Algae Oil)
- Slice the bananas and place on a parchment or silcone baking mat lined sheet pan. Place pan in the freezer and allow bananas to freeze for about 1 hour.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add the frozen banana slices and peanut butter. Process until mixture is smooth. You will probably need to scrape the bowl multiple times before the mixture fully comes together.
- Spoon banana mixture into a bowl and place in the freezer until mixture is firm. Start checking after about 1-1/2 hours.
- Remove banana mixture from the freezer. If mixture is too firm to scoop, allow to thaw for about 10 minutes. Using a scoop or melon baller with a 1" diameter, scoop out balls of banana mixture and place back on the lined sheet pan. If this gets a little messy, form balls the best you can with your fingers. Place sheet pan in freezer until balls are frozen, about 15 minutes.
- Right before you're ready to remove the banana balls from the freezer, place the chocolate chips and oil in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 20 second increments until the chocolate is melted. Stir chocolate chips after each round. It shouldn't take you more than a few rounds in the microwave.
- Place a banana ball on a fork and dip into the bowl of chocolate. Use a spoon to pour chocolate over the top.
- Put truffles back on the lined sheet pan and place in freezer until chocolate is hardened, about 5 minutes. Place truffles in an airtight container and store in the freezer until ready to eat.
- When ready to eat, allow truffles to thaw for 5 minutes.