Newswise — DALLAS – February 2017 – If wine and chocolate are on the menu for Valentine’s Day, you might be doing your heart a tiny little favor, but moderation remains key, says Dr. Joseph Hill, Chief of Cardiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Wine is part of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes vegetables, fruit, seafood, and olive oil, and is recommended by cardiologists, says Dr. Hill, Director of the Harry S. Moss Heart Center. The region of the world where the Mediterranean diet is the norm is notable for its longevity.
Researchers have pinpointed a substance called resveratrol in wine that decreases inflammation and signals the arteries to expand, easing blood flow. Some of the benefits from moderate wine consumption may derive from this compound.
Similarly, chocolate – in particular dark chocolate and cocoa powder – contains an antioxidant called epicatechin that research suggests can have positive effects on artery health and may contribute to lower blood pressure.
But while consumers are eager to embrace research showing benefits of pleasurable foods like wine and chocolate, doctors are hesitant to encourage their patients to partake. Excessive consumption of alcohol – more than two drinks per day for men and more than one for women – can be damaging to organs and pose potential substance abuse issues, and a daily chocolate habit can mean a high intake of sugar and calories.
“We want to believe that chocolate is good for us, but I tell my patients to pump the brakes,” says Dr. Hill. “Portion size is crucial and the health benefits of eating the calorie equivalents of vegetables and fruit are far greater.”
Dr. Hill holds the James T. Willerson, M.D. Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Diseases and the Frank M. Ryburn, Jr. Chair in Heart Research.