The festive holidays that mark the beginning of spring come with many temptations. Choosing to live well is to take these temptations and turn them into healthy treats that celebrate the season. Wine and chocolate can be good for you- or evil.
A glass of red wine is packed with powerful antioxidants that have been found to reduce the risk or heart attack and stroke, all while improving brain function, increasing lifespan, fighting cancer and decreasing the effects of aging. Phytochemicals, such as flavonoids and resveratrol, act as antioxidants and prevent “free radicals” from causing cellular damage in the body.
The benefits of red wine (and dark beer like Guinness) favor the cardiovascular system by relaxing the blood vessels and inhibiting the oxidation of unhealthy cholesterol. In moderation, alcohol can raise your good cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol) and thin your blood, preventing clotting and lowering the risk of heart disease.
When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better!
The benefits of chocolate have been known for thousands of years and some native tribes who regularly consumed cocoa showed very low rates of cardiovascular disease. Epicatechins, the natural compound found in cocoa, may offer significant benefits to those who’ve previously suffered from a stroke by its ability to restore function to blood vessels. Chocolate even contains chemicals associated with happy emotions.
Remember that not all chocolate is created equal. The more processing, like heat and light, chocolate is subjected to, the less antioxidants it has. Added ingredients like sugar and dairy can turn the otherwise beneficial treat into something quite the opposite; the milk in milk chocolate interferes with the absorption of beneficial antioxidants. Consuming a moderate amount of an organic, unprocessed, dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa is ideal.
Limiting alcohol to one glass per day is recommended for optimal health benefits. Keep in mind that drinking heavily can lead to weight gain; one bottle of wine is about 480 calories (that’s the equivalent of two 20-ounce Cokes!) For some, sulfates and tannins in wine can even trigger migraine headaches.
So indulge on these plant phenol-rich super foods during this holy season… but keep well by indulging in moderation. Happy Easter, everyone!