The truth about our treats

By: Primacy Dietitians, Mar 02, 2011

Are chocolate and red wine really good for the heart?

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about two of our favourite foods – chocolate and red wine. There is some new research and evidence that these two perennial faves are actually good for us.

But while there is some merit to those studies, that doesn’t mean you should start guzzling wine and downing Snickers bars. Here, we look at the truth behind our favourite treats.

A chocolate lover’s delight… or is it?

There is certainly a media buzz about the health benefits of dark chocolate. What makes chocolate healthy is a component of cocoa called flavanol. While all cocoa is created flavanol-rich, it is primarily the processing of natural cocoa solids into cocoa powder or into confectionary chocolate that determines whether a final product is flavanol rich or poor.

Unfortunately, large variability exists in processing of chocolate which makes it difficult to know the amount of flavanol that remains in your average chocolate bar. Because of the high saturated fat and calorie content in chocolate, if you love chocolate, consume it in moderation.

Some experts also say those health benefits are only found in dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70 per cent or more. Most processed milk chocolate doesn’t have anywhere near that amount, so if you’re going to nosh on chocolate, make sure it’s high quality and has a high cocoa content.

Veni, vidi, vino?

You may have heard that red wine may be good for heart health. Similar to chocolate, it’s still unknown whether the health benefit of red wine outweighs the negative effect of the extra calories and alcohol. Wine is very high in calories. A 5 oz. glass of red wine is approximately 120 calories, which means it doesn’t take many glasses to add pounds to your waistline.

If you love red wine, consume it in moderation, no more than one to two glasses per day (with a maximum of nine per week) for women and no more than two glasses per day (with a maximum of 14 per week) for men. If you don’t normally drink alcohol, don’t start drinking to reap the health benefits as other foods can provide you with similar heart health benefits.

Primacy Dietitians is a panel of dietitians who are all members of the Dietitians of Canada.