04/12/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Why Valentine's Day Just May Be The Healthiest Day Of The Year!

Many people eagerly await Valentine's Day, and for good reason! Whether you are with a loved one, family or friends various Valentine's Day traditions can benefit your body, mind and spirit. And for these scientific reasons, it might just be the healthiest day of the year.

It's all about the Flavonoids

According to the Cleveland Clinic, flavonoids are found in plants. They have been identified as compounds that help repair the plant from environmental damages. Flavonoids can also be found in a wide variety of food and drinks. When we ingest foods rich in flavonoids, it is believed they also help protect us against our own environmental toxins such as pollutants from factories, cars, and the dreaded cigarette.

The benefits don't end there. Flavonoids also have been found to have a positive effect on heart health and may help reduce platelet activation. Platelet activation plays a key role in the development of heart attacks and stroke. Anything that we can do to ward off these crippling and deadly disease processes lead to a better more enjoyable quality of life.

Chocolate has been identified as one such food! Actually, not all chocolate has jumped from the naughty to the nice list. The cocoa from which chocolate is made is rich in flavonoids. However, through the processing and getting rid of that strong cocoa taste, many of the benefits are lost. Dark chocolate which retains a little of the bitter cocoa flavor contains the highest amount of flavonoids. So although milk chocolate may have a sweeter taste and may be preferred over the dark chocolate, the health benefits aren't the same. Even with this new "good for you" label, moderation is always key. Having a couple of small pieces of dark chocolate every-so-often may no longer be a bad idea. What you would want to avoid are candies like large milk chocolate covered marshmallows or a caramel mound of delight. Even if you sprinkle a little dark chocolate on top, the risk would definitely outweigh the benefit! So maybe this year buy your sweetheart a small box of DARK chocolate.

A Special Dinner with a Special Someone

Another tradition which contributes to Valentine's Day possibly being the healthiest holiday is that special dinner. Many couples like to splurge on a "nice meal" which often consists of a lean filet or may be even a fish or seafood entree. Lean meats are excellent sources of protein and iron which are both important for maintaining strong muscles, adequate levels of oxygen carrying red blood cells, and overall healthy body functioning.

Fish and seafood are low in saturated fat which may make them more heart healthy. Some believe adding a variety of fish to the diet is a benefit because then you limit overexposure to toxins which may be present in any one particular species. Also, some fatty fish are very high in omega-3 fatty acids which make them a heart healthy option as they are known to improve blood pressure, decrease inflammation, and improve memory.

Red Red Wine

Enjoying a glass of red wine with your Valentine's Day meal can also continue the trend of a heart healthy day! We have long heard that one glass of red wine would not hurt us. Although the green light for a glass of their favorite Malbec may be enough for some, it still leaves the question what makes RED wine so special?

Well the flavonoids present in chocolate are a form of a larger group of antioxidants called polyphenols. The two main forms of polyphenols are flavonoids and nonflavonoids. Red wine contains both forms. Studies have found that alcohol can increase your good cholesterol and protect arteries. All alcohol can have this benefit but red wine is special because the nonflavonoids are found in the grape skin. Since red wine is fermented longer than white wine for example, it has more of the nonflavonoids than its white wine counterpart. So it IS okay to have a glass of WHITE wine with your fish or seafood during your Valentine's Day meal. You just won't get as much of the heart healthy antioxidants. And remember moderation...only one glass.

Love and Marriage

As a day dedicated to celebrating love, it is no wonder that Valentine's Day can also impact a person's emotional well being! We as social beings thrive when we feel an intimate connection to another and the intimacy shared between a couple can lead to the release of endorphins. Endorphins are our body's natural "feel good" hormone. They have actions in the body like opiates and result in pain relief. Exercise, stress and intimate contact can result in the release of our endorphins. A release of endorphins can intensify the overall wellness experienced by a couple on this very healthy holiday. Perhaps this is why Valentine's Day has to be one of THE most popular days for a mate to pop the question or for a couple to get married.

The aroma of fresh flowers can help you and your loved one enjoy mental relaxation. Typically roses are the flowers of choice but lavender would also work. The tranquil environment you create may allow both of you to truly enjoy each others company and forget the troubles of the world on this special day. Reducing stress and maintaining low anxiety levels lead to an inner peace which facilitates a more fulfilling home and work life. When you feel good this shines through. You can become a parent better able to guide your family, a more productive employee or business person, and a more active individual!

The key to maximizing your Valentine's Day health benefits is to incorporate these traditions throughout the year. Eating well, spending time with loved ones and focusing on a healthy lifestyle should be an everyday occurrence or at least a daily goal. This very special day can then transform into a very special life!