Written by Bridgett Zimmer, Holistic Nutritionist, B.S. Nutrition and Wellness, Certified Health Coach, Certified Holistic Nutritionist
We often hear how chocolate is good for us and especially during heart health month, we tend to enjoy this decadent box of sinful goodness. But is it really helping our bodies?
Recently we have seen advertisements and media boasting how just two pieces of chocolate a day can be beneficial to our heart health. While there are some truths to this, there is more to the story here.
Let’s dig deeper…
Dark chocolate (cacao) is the most delicious of the heart tonics. If you’ve ever eaten chocolate, you’ve eaten cacao seeds because all chocolate products are derived from cacao seeds. Cocoa refers to the powder that is commonly seen in American supermarkets and stirred into beverages. The process used to create cocoa entails applying high heat to raw cacao, which destroys some of the beneficial nutrients it contains. However, even after this process, cocoa still has several beneficial nutritional properties.
The antioxidant flavanols in cocoa beans can improve memory, and cocoa is a powerful source of antioxidants. New research has found that older adults who drank two cups of cocoa a day for a month showed improved blood flow on brain scans. It also showed reduced incidences of hypertension and reduced risk of death due to heart disease.
Quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is actually very nutritious: It is rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and other minerals. The combination of these minerals working together decrease inflammation, increase circulation, decrease blood pressure, and may improve cholesterol.
With that being all true, there are stipulations to this delectable treat working its magic. Sugar and milk can dilute these benefits to zero health benefits. Keep in mind, the higher the cocoa percentage the better the effects.
Think cacao nibs (made from organic whole cacao beans that are low-temperature dried and gently crushed to preserve their vital nutrients) and cocoa powder without the sugar. These can be found online or at a health food store.
Now let me get into another great treat both for the body and mind – Red Wine. This is another indulgence that boasts about being healthy for our hearts. Who doesn’t love to “wine” down their day with a full-bodied glass of red wine filled with resveratrol?
Studies have shown that resveratrol may help prevent damage to blood vessels and reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, and prevent blood clots which prevents or at the very least lowers risk of heart disease. These are the antioxidants that help with reduction of coronary disease. But just a glass a day will do, any more will not be as beneficial to the body.
My advice as a Nutritionist is to err on the side of caution when consuming an alcoholic beverage such as red wine.
- If you don’t drink, don’t start.
- Always consult with your physician
- Certain medications will interact with alcohol, so make sure you are aware of those that do.
- Consume responsibly.
And remember to consume dark chocolate and red wine in moderation to obtain the full body benefits!