Heart-healthy benefits of red wine, dark chocolate

January 22, 2019 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Adopting a heart-healthy diet? Take heart, you can still enjoy your favorite glass of red and some dark chocolate. Studies show that the antioxidants in red wine and dark chocolate can be beneficial for your heart.

Eating dark chocolate provides a variety of benefits for your heart, including better blood circulation, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and a lower risk for stroke. The antioxidants and resveratrol found in red wine also provide similar benefits, studies show.

But as with anything, portion control is key, says Mary Gardner RD, LDN, an outpatient dietitian at Edward Hospital.

Keeping your consumption of dark chocolate to one or two ounces is fine and be sure to stick to red wines, not white. Women can enjoy a 5-ounce glass a day while men can enjoy two drinks a day.

“You can have wine in moderation,” says Gardner. “However, in excess, the negative effects will outweigh any positive benefits.”

In fact, too much can have the opposite effect on your heart, causing problems with blood pressure and other problems, such as obesity or liver damage. Too much wine can also increase your chance for stroke according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Gardner also warns that dark chocolate and red wine alone are not a fast fix. A healthy lifestyle – including a good diet and regular exercise – is also important.

“I don’t think there’s a magical food,” she says. “A lot of it has to do with lifestyle factors.”

For instance, if you don’t drink red wine now, adding it to your diet likely won’t make a big difference, she says. The AHA also cautions people not to start drinking alcohol if they do not already due to health risks and the unpredictable risk of alcoholism.

However, if it’s a part of your routine, there is evidence to support that it can be a benefit, according to Gardner.

For chocolate lovers, make sure the dark chocolate is at least 70 percent cacao. The cacao is what carries the antioxidants that provides the health benefit. Some varieties also include added protein powder or almonds, making it even more beneficial. Steer clear of the milk chocolate varieties as those often have more sugar and a higher calorie count.

Resveratrol is also found in grape skins. Eating grapes or having a glass of red or purple grape juice may have some of the heart-healthy benefits of drinking a glass of red wine.

Learn more about healthy eating and get healthy recipes.

Learn more about heart and vascular services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Related blogs:

Why you should do brunch (and how to make it healthy)

Fats — good or bad? A look at the research

Your heart can love dining out

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