Right around Valentine’s Day, we’re always bombarded with ads for red wine and dark chocolate. Even when V-day isn’t looming on the horizon, it’s pretty common to see Pinterest posts and glittery Facebook gifs from your Aunt Linda referencing how a bottle of red wine in one hand and a bar of chocolate in the other is a healthy and balanced diet.
Listen, I’m not here to tell Aunt Linda how to live her life (though, maybe someone should tell her that they make chocolate wine), but what those funny posts are missing are actual details. The truth is that Aunt Linda isn’t totally wrong. Red wine and dark chocolate do actually have considerable health benefits! The trick is knowing what to look for and how to consume them in the right quantities to reap those benefits.
I know, I know. Being told that moderation is the key takes some of the fun out of the fact that you’re getting to drink wine and eat chocolate for your health. But hear me out!
Being told that moderation is the key takes some of the fun out of the fact that you’re getting to drink wine and eat chocolate for your health. But hear me out!
Why Science Supports Treating Yo’self
Both red wine and dark chocolate contain antioxidants, which we all know are good for us. But why do we need them?
There are molecules called free radicals that can be found in our bodies, and they come from a variety of sources. When they’re left to roam around inside you, they start causing low-level chaos wherever they go because they’re just itching to react with any other molecules they find. They’re like annoying, overbearing drunk people at the bar (remember when we used to go to bars?) who want to talk to anyone who passes by. If enough free radicals cause enough chaos over time, they can trigger several diseases.
Antioxidants are the answer to keeping these free radicals in check. They can find free radicals and react with them before they can cause chaos by disrupting your other cells. Think of them like the long-suffering sober friends who run interference to keep the overbearing drunks in check. Because they can neutralize free radicals, it’s important to make sure that your diet has plenty of antioxidants.
Other Health Benefits of Red Wine and Dark Chocolate
So, red wine and dark chocolate both contain substantial amounts of antioxidants. That alone is a good enough reason to add them to your diet (not to mention they’re delicious).
But wait! There’s more.
Red wine and dark chocolate also contain resveratrol. This compound is a polyphenol. Polyphenols are important micronutrients that we can only get through certain plant-derived foods and drinks (like pistachios, tea, and coffee). Resveratrol is also an antioxidant powerhouse that has the potential to help protect against high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
Dark chocolate has additional antioxidant compounds called flavonoids that help to fight natural aging and excessive cell damage in the body. It’s also a great source of important minerals like zinc, magnesium, and iron. Finally, dark chocolate contains a compound called theobromine that may be able to lower levels of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and elevate the “good” (HDL) cholesterol in some people.
How to Benefit From Adding Red Wine and Dark Chocolate to Your Diet
Now that you know why they’re good for you, let’s talk about how to make them work for you.
First of all, if you don’t drink already, adding red wine to your diet could cause more harm than good overall. You can get plenty of resveratrol from just eating grapes, pistachios, and berries, or you can take a supplement.
If you DO drink red wine, experts usually recommend sticking to no more than one 6-ounce glass per day if you’re looking for health benefits.
As far as dark chocolate goes, you should look for it to be at least 70 percent cacao. If it’s processed much more than that, it loses much of its flavanol content, and it also tends to be much higher in sugar, calories, and saturated fat. If you’re planning to add dark chocolate to your diet as a treat, aim for no more than one ounce per day.
Treat Yourself and Your Health
Ultimately, we all know that red wine and dark chocolate aren’t miraculous staples of a healthy diet. There are plenty of other foods that can provide similar benefits. But it’s also important to know that if you enjoy red wine and dark chocolate, it’s okay to enjoy them in moderation, especially since they may have health benefits beyond tasting delicious.