It’s that time of year again, where we shower that special someone with decadent chocolates and the wine is flowing. Valentine’s Day is a time of year to show your loved ones how much they mean to you, but did you know that it can be good for your heart in more than one way? Many of the traditional Valentine’s Day foods, like berries, red wine, and chocolate, are rich in heart healthy flavonoids. Of course, we have to remember, as the saying goes, everything in moderation!
Flavonoids have received a ton of attention in the press, and rightfully so. Two recent studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition were published on this subject. One study showed that red wine produces beneficial anti-inflammatory effects, and the other demonstrated that people with who consumed more flavonoids had a lower rate of death from cardiovascular disease.
Red wine benefits
Red wine contains a powerful compound, a polyphenol called resveratrol. Resveratrol has been widely studied all over the world, and has been associated with cardiovascular, anticancer, and anti-aging benefits. Red wine contains some other heart healthy flavonoids (a class of polyphenols), such as anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, flavonols, and proanthocyanidins. These flavonoids were associated with lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, even for people consuming relatively small amounts.
Chocolate is also a rich source of flavonoids, especially favan-3-ols and proanthocyanidins. Therefore, it is also associated with cardiovascular, cancer, and aging benefits. However, not all chocolate is created equal. The chocolate that you buy in the stores in the form of a candy bar is typically low in these healthy flavonoids, as manufacturing and processing can destroy half of the flavonoid content. To get the most benefit, buy chocolates and cocoa-powders that are enriched with flavonoids or dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa. Some more great news is that the saturated fat, stearic acid, found in chocolate does not raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol!
Other sources of these powerful polyphenols in the diet are: blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, apples, black tea, herbal tea, celery, garlic, green peppers, kale, onions, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, nuts, and soy products.
Although there are clear benefits to consuming red wine and chocolate, those benefits can be undone by taking in too much. Remember that wine is a source of sugar and calories, while chocolate is often high in sugar, calories and fat. A 4–5 ounce glass of wine is considered one serving. It is recommended that women stick to one serving a day, while men can have two. Dark chocolate should be limited to one ounce per day (two at most).
Happy Valentine’s Day!