Chocolate and red wine, are both popular treats for Valentines Day. In recent years there have been reports regarding the positive health benefits of both. So what’s the scoop? Does eating chocolate and or drinking red wine protect you from disease??
Both red wine and chocolate are made from plant material: red wine from grapes and chocolate from the cacao bean, which is a seed of the fruit from the cacao tree. All plants contain varieties of nutrients including vitamins and minerals. Plants also contain phytochemicals. Phytochemical’s are non-nutritive substances that provide health benefits beyond that of vitamins and minerals.
Red wine contains an antioxidant called polyphenols. Now here comes the chemistry lesson! Antioxidants inhibit the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a reaction that produces free radicals. Free radicals start chain reactions that cause damage or death to cells. The bottom line is that antioxidants prevent cell damage and death. Oxidation has been implicated in causing several diseases including cardiovascular disease. The exact polyphenol in red wine is Resveratrol, which may help prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and prevent blood clots. Resveratrol is found in the skins of grapes. Red wine has higher concentrations of the ingredient than white wine due to differences in fermentation. Grapes and grape juice are of course non alcoholic sources of this polyphenol.
Red wine like everything else should be consumed in moderation. Excessive alcohol can lead to addiction and a host of other medical conditions. Current recommendations are to consume no more than 1-2 glasses of red wine per day.
Chocolate contains a class of a polyphenol called flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties as well. The flavonoid is flavanol, which may have a role in lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow, and decreasing blood clot (fatty plaque) formation. Flavanol has a very strong taste so most of the antioxidant is removed through processing. Dark chocolate may be the best source of flavanol among chocolates because it is the least processed, however this depends on exactly how it was processed.
Try to choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate as it does contain less fat and sugar than milk chocolate. Choose dark chocolate with at least 70 percent pure coca and only consume 1 ounce a few times per week.
Ghirardelli has a line of chocolate called Intense Dark containing 60-86%.
Lindt has 70%-99% cocoa bars
Lily’s Sweets chocolate only contains 55% cocoa, however are made with non-GMO ingredients, has no added sugar, and is sweetened with Stevia.
Update and revised 2/13/2015