Chocolate and wine have been around for many years, but besides being mood lifters, their consumption also has great benefits on general health.
Flavanoids are good
Flavanoids — the free-radical fighting polyphenols — help neutralise the effect of free radicals in the body. Free radicals break down the defences of healthy cells and accelerate the process of ageing. They are also responsible for degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer. Red wine contains anthocynadins, of which resveratrol is the most popular. Theobromine is a flavanoid unique to cocoa. Since their mode of action is similar, health benefits of consuming red wine and dark chocolate overlap.
Polyphenols from red wine have anti-hypertensive (reducing blood pressure), anti-atherogenic (inhibiting plaque formation on blood vessels) and vasoprotective (protecting blood vessel) benefits. Resveratrol from red wine relaxes the coronary arteries and prevents plaque build-up.
It helps boost immunity, protects the brain from damage and also helps inhibit cancer development. Some studies show that resveratrol may even help you lose weight by reducing insulin level, prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes and reduce chances of developing prostate cancer. Resveratrol is found in green vegetables, the skin of peanuts and in citrus fruits, but it is most abundant in red grapes and good quality red wine.
Chocolate is very rich in two anti-ageing antioxidant flavanoids called gallic acid and epicatechin. In fact, dark chocolate contains flavanoids twice the amount in red wine and four times that in green tea.
However, all these benefits exist in dark chocolate. It contains twice the amount of flavanoids as milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is rich in copper and helps ward off CVD and lower blood pressure. Chocolate has few compounds which act as mood enhancers like serotonin.
However, excessive consumption of red wine can lead to ill-effects associated with alcohol dependence. Also, stick to dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. Choose a brand that has atleast 70 per cent or more cocoa and is low in fat. Make sure you eat dark chocolate in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Use it as a special treat and not as a daily ritual. Limit your red wine to one glass (76 calories in 100 ml) every other day.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.