We humans do so love a reason to eat candy, don't we? Nearly all of our holidays afford us an excuse to indulge our sweet tooth, if at least for a day. As Valentine's Day rolls around each year, many paramours hope that the way to their lover's heart is through that very sweet tooth, purchasing oodles and oodles of chocolate kisses and candy hearts.

Whether candy will sweeten the love deal... well, that really depends on the individual. But whether a dose of calories and fat is worth the health risk depends upon the nutritional content of the sweet treat you choose to give your sugarbear. So, how do a couple of the most popular choices compare?

Conversation hearts

250 billion candy conversation hearts have pumped out of the New England Confectionary Company since the turn of the 20th century. Stamped with those unforgettably succinct messages of love or rejection - Be Mine, Love Me, No Way - Sweethearts have been a Valentine standby for awhile now. Each tiny wafer is made from sugar, gum, corn syrup, cornstarch, and the mysterious "color" and "flavor."

These ingredients get mixed and flattened into a doughy sheet and stamped with their teensy communiqués. Ten new messages are introduced each year, while others become outmoded and are removed from the Sweetheart language. Though by no means healthy, Sweethearts are good for a wink and a giggle at only 3 calories per heart, and zero fat or sodium.

Chocolate kisses

Many potential Valentines melt at the thought of those little tear-drop shaped chocolates, those bite-sized cones of pure chocolate love. Should you wish to bestow Kisses, consider this choice: milk chocolate or dark chocolate? Health-conscious lovers may decide to go the dark side. A bit bitter, a little biting, dark chocolate may be an acquired taste. If your Valentine is not so sweet on dark chocolate's flavour, whisper these sweet nothings in his or her ear:

  • Dark chocolate contains fewer calories on average than milk chocolate. Take Hershey's Kisses Special Dark variety: It has only 180 calories per 9 Kisses, while the Milk Chocolate kind has 230 calories.
  • Dark chocolate may help to reduce "bad" cholesterol and improve blood vessel function. That might get your love's heart racing.
  • Dark chocolate charms with its antioxidant powers, which may protect cells from oxidative damage that can lead to cancer.

At the heart of dark chocolate's cancer-and-high-blood-pressure-busting cred are flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant pigments found in abundance in fruits, vegetables, green tea, red wine, and (luckily for chocoholics) chocolate. Unfortunately, when most kinds of chocolates are processed, the flavonoids are reduced or totally removed. Not so with most dark chocolates.

The sweet and lowdown

Matching calorie for calorie, you would have to gobble up 80 of those cute, doughy little Sweethearts to equal the number of calories in just 9 Hershey's Milk Chocolate Kisses. Your Sweetheart load would be a bit less when compared to Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Kisses: To equal 9 Kisses, you'd have to down 60 tiny message hearts. But then there are those dark chocolate health benefits...

Anything for love, right?