Scoop Some Love

Heart-Friendly Chocolate “Ice Cream”

Heart-Friendly Chocolate “Ice Cream”

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Partnered with Valentine’s Day, Heart Month is timed to encourage us to show some love for our hearts and vascular systems. Heart disease remains the #1 cause of mortality for both men and women of most ethnic groups in the USA (1).   

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), half of Americans have one of the top 3 risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels and smoking.  All are controllable. This isn’t just for oldsters – younger people are touched by heart disease, too – 20% of coronary artery disease deaths occur in people under the age of 65. Four ways to control you heart health are (2):

  1. Don’t smoke
  2. Manage conditions such as high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure
  3. Stay active, doing at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly
  4. Enjoy a heart-healthy diet

Research-based guidelines on diets to prevent cardiovascular disease come from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) [3]: 

 “All adults should consume a healthy plant-based or Mediterranean-like diet high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, lean vegetable or animal protein (preferably fish), and vegetable fiber, which has been shown to lower the risk of all-cause mortality compared to control or standard diet” (3)”

A Mediterranean diet has been ranked the #1 Best Diet Overall for three consecutive years by the U.S. News & World Report (4).  Touted as one of the easiest diets to follow, Mediterranean diets focus on eating more produce, nuts, whole grains and less red meat and sugar. Consuming a Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality which means the benefits go beyond the heart – it may help prevent, type II diabetes, some cancers, cognitive decline and help with weight management.

If you’re surfing for a good eating plan, note that the #2 Best Diet ranked by U.S. News & World Report is the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), designed to reduce high blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart disease. Tied for the #2 position is the Flexitarian Diet, both of which are supported with clinical research. (4,5)

The ACC/AHA guideline tells us what not to eat, too: “Longstanding dietary patterns that focus on low intake of carbohydrates and a high intake of animal fat and protein as well as high carbohydrate diets are associated with increased cardiac and noncardiac mortality.”

The AHA has a strict guideline on added sugar, 100 calories or 6 teaspoons daily for women and 150 calories or 9 teaspoons for men. Eating too much added sugar (not what’s naturally occurring in fruits and other whole foods) is associated with dying from heart disease, as shown in a major 2014 study (6). People who got 10% or more of their calories from added sugar had double the risk of dying of heart disease, compared to those consuming under 10% of their calories from sugar. Those who consumed 25% or more calories from added sugar had an even greater risk. Interestingly, these statistics remained true even when other healthy eating habits were accounted for.

What does 10% of calories from added sugar look like? If you consumed 2000 calories each day your goal would be no more than 200 calories (12 ½ teaspoons or 50 grams) from added sugars. The new Nutrition Facts Panel on food labels will help us know how much we’re eating by declaring Total Sugars and Added Sugars (7).  

Try this recipe for Chocolate “Ice Cream” that is mostly sweetened with dates and/or prunes. The only added sugar comes from the bittersweet chocolate – amounting to a mere 1 teaspoon per serving. If you use vegan or dairy-free bittersweet chocolate, it is dairy-free too. Once serving provides over 25% of your daily value (DV) for dietary fiber, 30% DV for iron and 8% DV for potassium. Read about the benefits of dark, bittersweet chocolate in these blogs.

Make heart-healthy taste good!

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Chocolate  ”Ice Cream”

Adapted from Sugar-Free Chocolate Sorbet

It’s hard to believe this rich “ice cream” has no cream. if you use vegan bittersweet chocolate it’s dairy free. The secret ingredient is dried fruit, simmered until very soft, which provides most of the sugar (naturally occurring). A little added sugar ( 1 teaspoon per serving) comes from the bittersweet chocolate. Use all dates, all prunes or half of each, as I did.  If you don’t want to simmer the fruit in coffee, try orange juice and add a tablespoon of Grand Marnier.

Serves 6 (about 3 cups ice cream)

1 cup pitted medjool dates, prunes (about 6 ounces), or half of each

3 cups decaf or regular coffee, orange juice or water

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup water

3 ounces 70% bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped {use vegan o dairy-free if you like}

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon rum or vodka (optional)

1/8 teaspoon salt

  1. Combine dates (and/or prunes) and coffee in a medium saucepan. Cover, leaving lid partially ajar, and bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes to soften fruit. Remove from heat. Drain fruit, reserving ½ cup of the liquid.  
  2. Add cocoa powder to the same saucepan. Gradually whisk in ½ cup water and whisk until smooth.  Place over medium heat and stir until mixture begins to simmer. Remove from heat, add chocolate and stir until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Stir or whisk in remaining water, reserved ½ cup liquid from simmering the fruit, vanilla, rum and salt. Mixture should be smooth. Cool to room temperature.
  3. In a blender, combine chocolate mixture and fruit. Whirl until smooth, stopping to scrape down the side of the ar once or twice.
  4. Turn mixture into a bowl. Cover and chill until cold, or overnight.
  5. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. 

Nutritional Analysis (made with half dates and half prunes):

Calories: 170; Protein 4 g; Carbohydrates 31 g; Dietary Fiber 6 g; Total Sugar 18 g; Added sugar 4 g; Total Fat 7 g; Saturated Fat 4 g; Sodium 50 mg.


  1. Heart Disease Facts   
  2. Heart Disease: It Can Happen at Any Age
  3. 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease
  4. Mediterranean Diet 
  5. U.S. News Best Diet Rankings   
  6. Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults.Quanhe Yang, PhD1; Zefeng Zhang, MD, PhD1; Edward W. Gregg, PhD2; ealW. Dana Flanders, MD, ScD3; Robert Merritt, MA1; Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD  JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(4):516-524. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13563
  7. New and Improved Nutrition Facts Label

© Lorelle Del Matto 2020

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


  1. Cheryl Eiger says

    What a lovely and delicious way to celebrate love of other, and self with good heart care .
    Thank you for breaking down the requirements for healthy eating .
    Look forward to trying your recipes
    Thanks Lorelle

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