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(upwave.com) -- Emotionally, hearts are so darn vulnerable. They break from sorrow, burst with joy and occasionally grow three sizes in one day (if you're a Grinch, anyway).
Physically, they are just as prone to damage. And yet on Valentine's Day, a holiday dedicated to matters of this most vital organ, we splurge on sweets loaded with unhealthy fats, sugar and cholesterol.
This year, turn over a new leaf: Keep both your ticker and your tummy happy by diving into light, nutritious and oh-so-delicious Valentine's Day desserts.
Strawberry Shortbread Stacks from A Guiltless Glutton
Longing for the light, creamy sweetness of strawberry shortcake -- minus all those calories? Opt for homemade strawberry shortbread stacks, which check in at just 250 calories per serving. This take on the classic dessert features shortbread made with low-fat cottage cheese instead of artery-clogging shortening. Light whipped topping and naturally heart-healthy strawberries top this seemingly indulgent yet skinny dessert.
Triple-Chocolate Cake Balls from Half Baked Harvest
This Valentine's Day, you can have your cake (balls) and eat them, too! This rich and creamy recipe features cocoa and dark chocolate, both widely accepted as aids to cardiovascular health. Other heart-friendly ingredients include fiber-rich whole wheat flour and Greek yogurt, which is packed with appetite-sating protein. The sleeper component of this decadent concoction is -- wait for it -- avocado. Yes, the primary ingredient in guacamole is surprisingly effective at moistening cake. Packed with good fats, avocado also promotes long-term heart health.
Guiltless Chocolate Bliss Cupcakes from Amee's Savory Dish
Dry those eyes! A breakup with moist, decadent cupcakes is not in your future, thanks to this heart-healthy recipe. Precious few ingredients -- many of which are probably in your pantry already -- are required. Vitamin- and fiber-rich canned pumpkin, which enhances flavor and texture and offers protection against heart disease, serves as an excellent substitute for butter or oil. Egg whites replace whole eggs to keep cholesterol levels in check. And the crowning glory? Flavonoid-rich cocoa and low-fat cottage cheese (don't knock it till you try it!) form a low-fat, low-calorie yet creamy frosting that's sure to woo your sweetie.
Mini Cheesecakes from Hungry & Fit
When made with regular cream cheese, cheesecake can serve up an off-the-charts amount of fat and calories. This version calls for Greek cream cheese and Greek yogurt, which dramatically reduce the health-busting components (while doubling the protein). Plus, these itty-bitty cakes are adorable and can be topped with antioxidant-rich berries to enhance flavor, nutrition and presentation. In a word? Love!
Raspberry-Coconut Mousse from Almost Skinny Vegan Food
This delightfully creamy mousse is the perfect closer to any Valentine's Day meal. As an added bonus, it's simple to make, leaving more time and energy for... um, more important things (wink, wink). Heart-friendly raspberries add flavor and tons of nutrients, and tofu delivers extra dietary oomph: It's rich in alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 that's believed to greatly benefit people who have heart disease (or are at risk of developing it). For extra health benefits, toss in some chopped nuts and add the fiber, unsaturated fats and vitamin E that make them heart superstars.
Kale Brownies from Chocolate-Covered Katie
This unexpected dessert is packed with taste bud-satisfying yet heart-healthy ingredients. The standout element, of course, is kale, which is commonly hailed as a superfood. In terms of cardiac health, kale helps regulate cholesterol and reduce heart-disease risk, thanks to its many vitamins and minerals. This particular recipe also incorporates ground flax, which studies have linked to optimal heart health. Sure, the recipe sounds a little wild and crazy -- but you only get one heart.
This article was originally published on upwave.com.
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