Indulge In Dark Chocolate & Red Wine This Valentine's Day

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For a healthy Valentine's Day...Enjoy a glass of red wine and a bit of dark chocolate.

You've probably heard of the many health benefits to red wine and dark chocolate.  But what is it about these two (seemingly not so healthy) foods that make them good for us?  And...Is it possible to get too much of a good thing?

Let's start with my personal favorite - dark chocolate.

Today you can buy just about every type of chocolate candy (from M&Ms to Kit-Kats) in dark chocolate.  But, it's not just any dark chocolate that's good for you...It must be dark chocolate with a high percentage (70%) of cocoa, to get more of the health-enhancing antioxidants.

It's something called flavonoids that make the dark so beneficial...

Flavonoids provide important protective benefits to plants, such as in repairing damage and shielding from environmental toxins. When we consume plant-based foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this “antioxidant” power.

From Hip Moms Go Green - Be Mine, Flavonoids...

The problem with chocolate—and you knew there would be!—is that it is a processed food and therefore the flavanoids are reduced in number by the time it reaches the shelf. It seems that dark chocolate maintains the highest level of flavanoids because it is less processed and isn’t made with milk which may inhibit the absorption of the flavanoids. Seems like when it comes to chocolate, you should be thinking the same way as you do about your fruits and vegetables: dark is better.

Not surprisingly, dark chocolate has also been found to be beneficial for emotional health and happiness.

From Apple a Day...

In a separate 2009 study, researchers found that dark chocolate could also reduce emotional stress. Participants who were given 40g of dark chocolate every day for two weeks were found to have reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as other stress chemicals.

And of course, all chocolates (including dark chocolate) have both positive and negative attributes.  Chocolate candy is high in saturated fat and sugar, which can be unhealthy and lead to weight gain.  As with many things, moderation is key when it comes to the health benefits of dark chocolate.  [If you're like me, the words dark chocolate and moderation don't go hand in hand.  So far, I haven't found a way to incorporate dark chocolate into my diet without overindulging.]

Now... about red wine.

From The Mayo Clinic...

Red wine, in moderation, has long been thought of as heart healthy. The alcohol and certain substances in red wine called antioxidants may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of "good" cholesterol and protecting against artery damage.

While the news about red wine might sound great if you enjoy a glass of red wine with your evening meal, doctors are wary of encouraging anyone to start drinking alcohol. That's because too much alcohol can have many harmful effects on your body.

Still, doctors do agree that something in red wine appears to help your heart, though it's unclear just exactly what that "something" is. Researchers think antioxidants, such as flavonoids or a substance called resveratrol, have promising heart-healthy benefits.

From SAHM Answers - Medicinal Value of Red Wine...

If you don’t drink more than 1 glass per day you will enjoy these health benefits:

1. Lowering Cholesterol levels.
2. Lower risk of Heart Attack and strokes.
3. Decrease Cancer risk (ovarian specially).
4. Prevent ulcers.
5. Strengthen your bones (lower risk of osteoporosis).
6. Anti-aging properties (Resveratrol, a substance of wine proved to rejuvenate your cells and now widely use for the treatment of numerous diseases).
7. Prevent and slow the progression of neurological disorders as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

So if you don’t drink more than 1 drink (2 for men), per day, you will be seizing the healthy properties of wine and not making its drinking become an unhealthy habit.

From Blue Kitchen - Eat, Drink and be Healthy in 2010...

For years now, we’ve been hearing the benefits of moderate wine consumption. Reducing the risk of heart attacks, lowering bad cholesterol, raising good… But all is not rosy with rosé. Wine Spectator recently reported on a study funded by The National Cancer Institute. “Study Finds Alcohol Is a Risk for Breast Cancer Recurrence” states that “scientists found that consuming more than two drinks per day was equal to a nearly 39 percent greater risk” in breast cancer recurrence. “However, the lead author adds that the results do not necessarily mean women should give up alcohol altogether.”

But there’s plenty of good news for wine drinkers too. Among the potential health benefits Wine Spectator has covered, especially for red wine are its ability to kick-start good digestion, prevent thyroid cancer, fight off viruses and even improve women’s sex lives.

In addition to flavonoids, red wine gets some of its health benefits from something called Resveratrol.  From Get Healthy With Yoga - List of Resveratrol Benefits...

Resveratrol Benefits Include:

  1. Free radical damage prevention and repair
  2. Anti-aging
  3. Life extension
  4. Blood-sugar-lowering
  5. Cancer Prevention
  6. Slows down the aging process by SI Factor of 10

But not everyone should drink red wine...There are medical conditions that can be made worse when red wine is consumed.  For instance, my heart and blood pressure problems would probably benefit from a daily dose of red wine. But I can't drink red wine because of my asthma.  So, before attempting to use red wine on a regular basis, check with your doctor to make sure it won't exacerbate any of your existing medical problems.

Also See:

Will you be indulging in dark chocolate or red wine on Valentine's Day?

[photo credit The Orange County Register]

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
Also at Catherine-Morgan.com

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