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Indulge in Chocolate & Red Wine for Heart Health

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

I’ve had a few calls from my chocoholic clients asking, “how much chocolate can I eat.” People are consuming chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and before, during and after dinner, thanks to the creativity of the chocolate industry. We eat approximately 12 pounds per person per year. Women eat more than men, and historically it has been the go-to gift to show appreciation and impress the ladies.

Most of us enjoy chocolate and the good news is it can be good-for-you. It contains flavonoids which are found in the cocoa beans. The primary flavonoids in cocoa and chocolate are flavanols which have antioxidant properties.

There are several types of chocolate which contain varying amounts of cacao and flavanols. Eating bittersweet or dark chocolate is the best choice over milk chocolate for the most generous amounts of higher cacao content chocolate. The higher the percentage of cacao in the chocolate, the greater the benefits and nutritional value. For example, an average serving of 65% dark chocolate would look something like this (these are estimates, as actual numbers will vary, depending on brand, size, etc.):

Total Fat 15 g, Sat. Fat 9 g, Sugars 16g, Protein 3g.

In comparison, an average serving of 99% dark chocolate serving would look something like this (these are estimates, as actual numbers will vary, depending on brand, size, etc.):

Total Fat 22 g, Sat. Fat 14 g, Sugars 2g, Protein 5g.

Remember chocolate can be bittersweet—too much of a good thing can tip your scale to the heavy side. Limit yourself to 2 or 3 ounces a day, this will add between 300 to 450 calories to your diet. You may want to cut back on calories from some other food or boost your exercise.

Red wine also has antioxidants with a similar health benefit. It also contains flavonoids along with resveratrol. Resveratrol is found in the skins of grapes, berries and some other fruits. The reds are rich in health benefits, but as in the case of chocolate the wine you choose will determine if you’re drinking a goblet or flute size quantity of benefits.

Cabernet sauvignon tops the list for flavonoids, followed by petit syrah and pinot noir. Both merlots and red zinfandels have fewer flavonoids. Generally speaking, the sweeter the wine, the fewer the flavonoids. Dryer red wines are your best bet for the highest flavonoid content.

Study of the health benefits of chocolate and wine is ongoing, however so far, the research indicates the following:

Dark Chocolate:

  • Helps lower blood pressure

  • Aids in maintaining healthy arteries that are relaxed and flexible, thus increasing blood flow.

It may also:

  • Reduce insulin insensitivity and lower the risk of diabetes.

  • Create a greater feeling of fullness and reduce cravings for sweet and salty foods.

Red Wine:

  • Contributes to heart health by decreasing the amount of “bad” cholesterol and increasing “good” cholesterol. Antioxidants also seem to have a positive effect in the bloodstream which can prevent heart attack or stroke by reducing risk of blood clot formation.

  • Protects against neurological disorders by helping to block plaques which are thought to damage brain cells and contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Cuts down on the inflammation and tissue damage caused by gum disease.

TAKE AWAY: Enjoy foods that give you pleasure. Just remember moderation is the key. Too much of a good thing will undo or cancel out the benefits you’ll gain (pardon the pun) from savoring chocolate and red wine.

Image courtesy of ponsuwan /

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