Good news about guilty pleasures

So, you're sitting on the couch relaxing - a glass of wine in one hand and a dark chocolate candy bar in the other. You
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010


So, you’re sitting on the couch relaxing — a glass of wine in one hand and a dark chocolate candy bar in the other. You are feeling a little guilty in these indulgences, but you had a hard day at work, you just put the kids to bed and you really need to unwind with two of your favorite relaxers.

Go ahead and do this — as long as it is within reason. Keep reading and find out some great news for wine and chocolate connoisseurs.

Dark chocolate

Here’s news that’s hard not to like. Eating a 1.6 ounce bar of dark chocolate every day is good for you. Many people don’t realize that chocolate is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables.

These health benefits come from flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage and lead to heart disease. 

Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly eight times the amount found in strawberries).

Another benefit of flavonoids is that they help relax blood pressure and balance certain hormones in the body.

Benefits of dark chocolate

- Lower blood pressure: Studies have shown that consuming a small bar of dark chocolate every day can reduce blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure.

- Lower cholesterol: Studies have shown that dark chocolate can reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by 10 percent.

- It stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure.

- It contains serotonin, which acts as an antidepressant.

- It contains theobromine, caffeine and other substances which are stimulants.

 While a little dark chocolate is good, a lot is not better. Chocolate is still loaded with calories. If you’re going to eat more chocolate, you’ll have to cut back elsewhere.

Red wine

Research has shown that a moderate intake of alcohol improves cardiovascular health, with red wine being the most beneficial.

The benefit has been linked to antioxidants present in the skin and seeds of red grapes. It is believed that antioxidants, called flavonoids, reduce the risk of heart disease in three ways: by reducing production of LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), boosting HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and by reducing blood clotting. Research has recently shown that red wine may be beneficial to more than just your heart. One study found that resveratrol, an antioxidant which is prevalent in the skin of red grapes, may inhibit tumor development in some cancers. Resveratrol has also been shown to aid in the formation of nerve cells, which researchers believe may be helpful in the treatment of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

This is not to say that you should start drinking alcohol if you currently do not. Occasional or binge drinkers have higher mortality rates than those who drink moderately on a regular basis. Long-term, excessive alcohol consumption can damage nerve cells, the liver and the pancreas.

A 4-ounce glass is equivalent to one serving. To obtain the maximum benefits men should consume one to two servings per day, while women should consume one serving per day. 

The wine that has the highest flavonoid concentration is cabernet sauvignon, followed by petit sirah and pinot noir.

Both merlots and red zinfandels have fewer flavonoids than their more potent predecessors.

The bottom line is the sweeter the wine, the fewer the flavonoids. Dryer red wines are your best bet for a flavonoid boost.

If you’re not a wine drinker, enjoy a glass of grape juice instead.

Studies have shown that red and purple grape juices have some of the same heart healthy benefits as red wine.

This is just a little good news about life’s little indulgences.

But remember a balanced diet and plenty of exercise is still the key to good health.