Whenever I tell someone that I’m a dietitian, they automatically think that I’m going to tell them what they cannot eat – the “bad” foods. Similarly, many of my clients look to me as the person who will take their favorite foods away from them. Across the board, people are surprised when they find out that I’m a “nice dietitian”.
In truth, many dietitians share my views about food and health. My philosophy on food has always been and will remain the same. Food should be real, wholesome, and nutritious; but above all, it has to taste good! As I see it, a food could be the most nutritious thing in the world, but it’s not going to make a bit of difference if no one will eat it. As a result, I advocate for eating the right amount of nutritious foods that you enjoy and, wait for it...taking the time to actually enjoy your food.
Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the potential health benefits of a few of my favorite healthy (in moderation) foods – dark chocolate and red wine!
Dark chocolate is a rich source of antioxidants and has been linked to healthy effects such as lowering “bad” and total cholesterol as well as blood pressure, improving insulin sensitivity, and decreasing risk of developing cardiovascular disease (Erdman, 2008). As an added bonus, it’s a delicious treat! Before you run to the chocolate aisle, keep in mind that not all chocolate is created equal. The more chocolate is processed the fewer benefits it has to offer. Look for a good quality dark chocolate that has a high percentage of cacao (aim for 60% or higher). It is also important to keep in mind that, even for a small portion, dark chocolate packs a relatively high number or calories. For the best outcome, enjoy dark chocolate in moderation - one ounce a few times per week.
Consumed in moderation, red wine also offers some potential improvements in heart health markers including increased “good” cholesterol and decreased risk of artery damage (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). While scientists are not entirely sure of exactly which component(s) of red wine cause the benefits, research points to antioxidants (especially resveratrol) and the alcohol itself. However, it appears that the positive effects of red wine are greater than the sum of its parts. Like chocolate, wine is calorically-dense, so be mindful of portion size. Current recommendations suggest that men may have up to two alcoholic beverages per day while women may have one. A serving of wine is equal to five fluid ounces. Additionally, it is not recommended that anyone who does not currently consume alcohol start drinking it because of the health risks of consuming too much alcohol.
So, from now on, take your time and enjoy a piece of dark chocolate or a glass of red wine as well as the health rewards that come with them. Cheers to heart health!
Guest Blogger Kelly MacDonald, MS, RD, LDN is the Manager of Nutrition for EverydayHealth's Calorie Counter
Erdman, J. (2008). Effects of cocoa flavanols on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 18(Suppl 1), 284-7. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296357
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2011, March 1). Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart?. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/red-wine/hb00089
Author: Justin Smith