News | Published February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day goodies good for the heart

This year, millions of people across the country will make their sweetheart's day a little sweeter with chocolate and wine on Valentine's Day. But how does the heart fare with these indulgences?

Many studies have shown that dark chocolate and wine, in moderation, not only relax the mind, but also have heart-healthy benefits. According to Albert Zoda, MD, FACC, interventional cardiologist, Mount Nittany Physician Group, and active medical staff at Mount Nittany Medical Center, “Wine and dark chocolate both have been shown to be beneficial to heart health and may improve cardiovascular functions. Overindulging, however, can have many adverse effects on the body. The key is to enjoy them in moderation.”

Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is rich in heart-healthy antioxidants and lowers cholesterol. Chocolate also contains flavonoids that stimulate the immune system and protect against bacteria and viruses. It also has been shown to have mood-boosting effects through an increase in endorphin production and releasing serotonin secretion - two of the brain's best mood stimulators.

The belief that wine has positive effects on health goes back to ancient times. Some ancient cultures even considered wine a medicine. While not medicinal in nature, some recent studies have shown that red wine can lower the risk of heart attack by about 30-50 percent. This is because red wine contains flavonoids and resveratrol, which prevent blood clot and plaque formation in the arteries. Studies have also shown that red wine, in moderation, can raise HDL levels (good cholesterol) and lower LDL levels (bad cholesterol), and may also protect the cardiovascular system by reducing blood vessel damage.

This Valentine's Day, remember that a little dark chocolate and wine can go a long way in not only showing the one you love that you care, but also caring for the one you love.