wine and chocolate on valentine's day

Who else is ready to stock up on chocolate an wine now that Valentine’s Day is over, and sales prices are hitting the markets?

We love working our way through that box of chocolates as much as the next person, but with February being American Heart Month, we love finding ways to make the season around Valentine’s Day a little more heart healthy. Chocolate and red wine are classic Valentine’s Day staples that you can’t go without, and they are often thought of to be healthy options for your heart.

But how heart-healthy are they really? Keep reading…we break it down for you.

dark chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker, the better.

According to Dr. Steven Charlap, chocolate’s health factor “depends on the percentage of cacao. The higher the better, but stay at least above 70%. Also, try to avoid chocolates with more than 3–4 grams of added sugar per serving…Try to avoid too much saturated fat, as well as any added chemicals. Chocolate can lower LDL cholesterol.”

The higher the concentration of cacao in your chocolate, the higher the concentration of flavonols. Flavonols are antioxidants that help repair cell damage, improve circulation, and lower blood pressure. The flavonols in dark chocolate also have been shown to increase cognitive function and performance, and help to lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol that builds up in your arteries.

The lower the concentration of cacao in your chocolate, the lower the concentration of antioxidants and higher amount of sugar and added fat you consume. While unfortunately it’s not going to be great for your heart to devour an entire box of chocolates in one sitting, eating a serving (generally about ⅓ of a bar) of dark chocolate is both a delicious and healthy indulgence for you.

red wine

When it comes to wine, it’s all about moderation.

A glass of red wine is thought to be good for your heart due to its high concentration of the polyphenol resveratrol, which has been linked to numerous health benefits. According to Dr. Panagiota Korenis, resveratrol improves health by “preventing cardiovascular disease, maintaining memory and preventing dementia, improving sleep, [and lowering LDL] cholesterol.”

Resveratrol is concentrated in the skins of the grapes, which are not used to make white wine, so red wine has a higher concentration of resveratrol than white. However, resveratrol can be ingested by eating grapes and a variety of other foods, so the benefits derived from it isn’t necessarily directly related to the alcohol.

Studies do show that moderate amounts of alcohol, and not just red wine, could have beneficial effects on health. Those that drink moderately (defined as up to one drink per day) have a lower risk of heart disease compared to those who don’t. However, these findings don’t take into account people that choose not to drink because they may struggle with an addiction to alcohol, or those that choose not to drink for other underlying health problems.

While research shows a little alcohol can help raise your HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and prevent against heart disease,  too much does damage to the heart and raises blood pressure. The high concentration of sugar in the alcohol can also put a damper on your health.

Ultimately, medical professionals do not recommend that you start drinking to improve health. However, If you choose to drink wine, you may reap benefits from drinking a small amount, up to one standard drink per day.

If you choose to drink, do so in moderation! Having a glass of wine can easily fit into your lifestyle as a healthy and fun habit. So don’t hesitate to pop open a bottle with your loved one or friends and enjoy a glass, ideally with a little dark chocolate on the side!

Author: Maggie Harriman

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