You’ve probably seen news stories describing studies that say drinking red wine is good for your heart, or that eating dark chocolate is healthy. But before you head to the grocery store to stock up on cabernet, you should know that not all the research agrees.
So does red wine actually have health benefits? What about dark chocolate? Learn more about the pros and cons of each so you can make decisions for yourself.
Anti-inflammatory Properties in Wine and Chocolate
Some research has shown that antioxidant polyphenols, including resveratrol, may have anti-inflammatory properties and improve cardiac health. Both red wine and cacao—the unprocessed source of chocolate—have high amounts of polyphenols.
Research in mice has shown large amounts of resveratrol improve cardiac health. However, the amount the mice were given is equivalent to dozens of bottles of red wine—daily. Other research has shown it may be a diet high in multiple types of polyphenols, like those found in berries, apples, onions, and tea that is beneficial, whether or not wine and chocolate are added to the mix.
Why Dark Chocolate and Red Wine?
The higher the amount of cacao in a chocolate bar, the more polyphenols you will be eating. Thus, an 85% cacao chocolate bar will have more antioxidants and almost certainly less sugar than a 55% cacao milk chocolate bar.
Similarly, red wines have much higher amounts of polyphenols than white wine or rosés. However, other studies have found that improved cardiovascular health was associated with drinking one to two glasses of any alcohol, not just red wine. But increased alcohol consumption beyond that was associated with a higher risk of cardiac disease. And research has not yet concluded whether small amounts of red wine or alcohol actually help heart health, or if the benefit is due to people who regularly exercise and eat a heart-healthy diet—and thus drink much lower amounts of alcohol.
Moderation Is Key
Red wine and dark chocolate may be a healthier choice for people who can consume indulgent foods and drinks from time to time. Ordering a glass of red wine instead of a sugary drink like a margarita or eating plain dark chocolate for dessert instead of a candy bar filled with caramel and nuts is going to be lower in calories, fats and sugar.
But if you’re leaning on the fact that you’re drinking red wine or eating dark chocolate instead of something else, it could be a sign that you are trying to justify unhealthy behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women drink no more than one 5-ounce glass of wine per day, and that men have no more than two glasses.
Drinking alcohol is also associated with a higher risk of certain cancers. One study found that drinking one bottle of red wine per week raises your risk of cancer by 1%, the same as if you smoked five to 10 cigarettes every week.
Have more questions about what you should or shouldn’t be eating and drinking? Make an appointment with an Altru provider to get more answers.