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The Ultimate Valentine's Dinner

Valentine's Day is another holiday in which our usual dietary decency flies out the window as we indulge in sugary candies, rich desserts and fine champagne. I've put together a romantic dinner for two that will satisfy the senses without sacrifice. I chose these recipes not only because they feature heart-healthy foods that nourish the body and spirit while setting the mood for a lovely evening, but also because they possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help protect the body, brain and skin from the effects of aging.

Almond-Encrusted Wild Salmon Fillets on a Bed of Wilted Greens
Parsley and Saffron-Scented Oat Pilaf
Cabernet Sauvignon
Extra-Dark Chocolate with Blueberries
Green Tea

Wild Salmon:
Is truly one of the world's most heart-healthy source of protein. Rich in long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids (the most beneficial kind) which protect the heart, inhibit inflammation, act as natural antidepressants, increase feelings of well-being and help keep skin young, supple and radiant.

Oat Pilaf is a delightful way to enjoy the benefits of complex carbohydrates in an extraordinarily healthful whole grain, which provides sustained energy and stimulates the release of serotonin, a key neurostransmitter that can lift mood and cut carbohydrate cravings. Oats are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibrous lignans and phytochemiclas that protect against heart disease, cancers, diabetes and a whole host of diseases.

Dark leafy greens are rich in the antioxidant plant pigments known as carotenoids, which enhance immune system response, protect skin cells against UV radiation and spare liver enzymes that neutralize carcinogens and other toxins. Their important antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effects reduce the risk of heart disease, block sunlight-induced inflammation in the skin (which leads to wrinkles and potentially skin cancer), protect the eyes (especially the lutein found in spinach and kale) and may even play a role in the prevention of cataracts.

Red Wine:
Cabernet Sauvignon contains a powerful heart-healthy, anti-cancer, anti-aging antioxidant called resveratrol. It also appears that resveratrol helps protect the skin against the sun's UV radiation. Many studies suggest that moderate alcohol drinking helps to reduce the likelihood of heart disease. But it seems that wine - particularly red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon – provides the benefit of interfering with the production of a chemical vital to the process that leads to clogged arteries and an increased risk of heart attack. White wine and Rosé unfortunately do not offer the same protection.

Extra-Dark Chocolate:
Especially that containing 70 percent cocoa solids or more is uniquely high in potent flavan-3-ols antioxidants. In fact, cocoa contains double the flavan-3-ols antioxidant content of red wine and five times that of green tea. Chocolate is also a source of several mood-elevating constituents, including tryptophan (precursor to serotonin) anandamide (a natural brain chemical very similar to the cannabinoids in marijuana) theobromine (milder cousin to caffeine) phenylthylamine and magnesium. While the amounts of each of these potentially mood-elevating components appear too small to affect most people's mood significantly, the combination can and does produce feelings of elation, even ecstasy in some individuals.

Green Tea:
Enjoy a cup of green tea after your meal and don't worry about the caffeine since a compound in green tea called theonine blocks the negative effects of caffeine while acting as a natural mood elevator and promoting feelings of well being. Because Green Tea is rich in polyphenol antioxidants, it can help fight inflammation and age accelerating free radicals, protect against heart disease and cancer, boost the body's natural defenses and exert antiviral and antibacterial effects.

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