Is red wine part of the Heart Wise eating plan?
If you already consume alcohol (beer, wine, spirits) occasionally, alcohol in moderation may play a role in heart health to help increase good cholesterol, reduce clots and help prevent damage to the lining of the arteries.
What are the heart healthy benefits?
The benefits may come from polyphenols or antioxidants, specifically resveratrol, which is a naturally occurring non-alcoholic plant based substance which appears to protect against artery damage. It may also slow the progression of neurological degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
Much of the "alcohol" research is done on red wine but there may be health benefits with other types of alcohol as well. We need to keep in mind that a lot of resveratrol research is done on animals and the amount of resveratrol given to the animals would be similar to an extremely excessive amount of daily wine. Red vs. white wine? The higher resveratrol content comes from the skin of red grapes which are fermented longer than white grapes. In white wine, the skin is removed before fermentation. Also, wine in cooler climates may have more resveratrol. Both have the same number of calories.
Do other foods contain similar health benefits?
Peanuts, blueberries, grapes and cranberries all contain resveratrol. For a healthy cardiovascular system I encourage people to eat real food for the other nutritional benefits as well (vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.).
What are the negative effects of drinking?
The holidays are stressful but so is daily life. Alcohol can be addictive and for many, may be a coping mechanism which may lead to excessive drinking. Alcohol may worsen health problems like hypertension, hyperlipidemia/high triglycerides, liver damage, obesity, certain types of cancer, accidents and weaken heart muscles. Pregnant women should not drink during pregnancy and individuals at risk for breast cancer should discuss with primary physician regarding alcohol consumption because alcohol may raise estrogen levels and tumor progression. Wine is also a trigger for migraines either for the tannins and histamins or from the sulfites so if you suffer from bad headaches, I recommend doing an elimination trial of wine for a few days or keeping a journal.
Take away message:
the best advice is if you already drink alcohol, do so in moderation. You can’t just drink your way to good health so if you don't already drink, that's OK - you don't need to start. Don’t ignore the many benefits in a real-food, balanced diet.
Recommendations:Moderate drinking is up to 2 drinks/day for men and 1 drink/day for women. Men can drink more generally because of a larger body frame and more enzymes to help metabolize alcohol.
1 drink = 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine, 1.5 ounces 80-proof distilled spirits.5 ounces of wine is ~120 calories. Alcohol is a little more concentrated with calories than carbohydrates with more calories per gram (7calories per gram in wine vs 4 calories per gram in carbohydrates).
4 glasses or 1 bottle of wine = ~ 480 calories.
What are the health benefits of dark chocolate?
Believe it or not, there are many health benefits of eating dark chocolate. Research shows that eating up to 1.5 ounces a day of dark chocolate may help lower blood pressure by improving blood flow. Dark chocolate may also help with arteriosclerosis and reduce risk for stroke but this doesn’t mean that after you eat a loaded hamburger that you will clean up the cardiovascular system with a Hershey Kiss. Also, since chocolate appears to improve blood flow, it may improve cognitive function to help with thinking and memory. It may also help with tooth enamel.
Chocolate also contains chemical compounds that make you feel good, similar to the hormones and endorphins released when you fall in love. Maybe that’s why so many people say they love chocolate because they just feel good when they eat it....I know I do!
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids which not only help to protect the immune system and cardiovascular system but reduces free radical damage to cells and may help with the aging process. Also, dark chocolate may help with insulin resistance for better glucose control. Dark chocolate contains high concentrations of potassium, copper, magnesium and iron.
Take away: I recommend around 85% cacao but if that’s too bitter, try 65-70% and check for cacao for more flavonoids. Keep in mind that A 1.5 ounce bar of dark chocolate contains 27 mg of caffeine. Depending on storage, handling and processing of the cacao bean, the % of cacao doesn't always mean that you are receiving a full amount of flavonoids for many of the heart-healthy nutrients may have been destroyed or removed. For example, each square in a bar of 86% Ghirardelli dark chocolate (~.4 ounces) contains ~ 63 calories and 6.25g fat so enjoy dark chocolate in your already heart-healthy, balanced diet.