To make the most of your Valentine's Day indulgences this year, make sure the wine is red and the chocolate is dark.
Studies show that, when consumed in moderation, red wine and dark chocolate actually have some health benefits. Whether you're looking to lower cholesterol, strengthen your immune system, or improve blood flow, consider treating yourself to some merlot and truffles this Valentine's Day.
Red wine and heart health
"A glass of wine can relax you, and red wine, in particular, has antioxidants that may have health benefits," says Kathryn O'Brien, M.S., R.D., L.D., senior dietitian at Eagle's Trace, an Erickson Senior Living community in West Houston, Tex.
Red wine is high in an antioxidant called resveratrol, which comes from the skin of grapes. Resveratrol, a type of polyphenol, has received a lot of attention because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Some research shows that it can protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart, reduce harmful cholesterol - called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) - in the bloodstream, and prevent blood clots.
But, other studies have found that resveratrol may not prevent heart disease at all.
"It's important to note that study results have been mixed, and health benefits can vary depending on several factors," O'Brien says. "Regardless, enjoying it in moderation is likely safe for many seniors. However, because alcohol in any form can interact with some medications, it's best to ask your health care provider if wine is safe for you."
If you don't like wine, other foods have similar antioxidants. "Blueberries; apples; cranberries; and red and purple grapes, and their juice, are excellent sources of resveratrol," O'Brien says.
Dark chocolate's benefits
The magic ingredient in dark chocolate is cocoa, which is rich in flavonoids. Some studies have shown these compounds help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries. Flavonoids also boost the immune system and contain enzymes that may help prevent certain cancers.
Flavanols, a type of flavonoid, are especially abundant in dark chocolate. Flavanols are essential for nitric oxide production, which relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow throughout your body. In addition, they may help lower blood pressure and improve oxygen delivery to your heart, brain, and other organs.
Dark chocolate also has a few grams of fiber per serving, as well as minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, and phosphorous.
Chocolate is classified as dark if it contains at least 50% cocoa solids. "To get the maximum benefit, you should look for dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa," O'Brien explains. "A higher percentage of cocoa usually means the product is lower in sugar, so expect a more bitter flavor - compared to other types of chocolate."
Like any food, moderation is essential when it comes to this classic Valentine's combo. Depending on the product you choose, a serving of dark chocolate is about one to two ounces.
Some people avoid what they consider treats altogether, says O'Brien, because they want to be as healthy as possible.
"However, I tell my clients that if they want a glass of wine or some dark chocolate, go for it!" O'Brien says. "You are less likely to overindulge if you allow yourself a treat now and then."
Health and well-being are at the forefront of the active and engaged lifestyle at Erickson Senior Living communities. To learn more about Erickson Senior Living, request a free brochure.