Heart-friendly indulgences

Heart-friendly indulgences

We live in an era of fast cars, colas, burgers, computers and remote controls. Lifestyle-related

diseases are the price one pays for modern living. No doubt the genetic make-up of a person increases the risk of heart disease, but it is one's lifestyle that becomes the deciding factor. Some lifestyle choices considered 'wrong' may not be bad for your heart.

Indulgent food like dark chocolates and wine may not be as bad for our health as we assume them to be. Let's take a look at factors that make them permissible:

Dark chocolates

A lot has been said and written about dark chocolate being good for the heart. But is it just any dark chocolate? The body cells are prone to damage courtesy the normal bodily processes and contaminants in the environment, like cigarette smoke, which form free radicals. To combat the damage that these free radicals cause, the body requires antioxidants.

Cocoa and chocolate contain flavonols, which in addition to having antioxidant properties, also have a positive effect vascular health. They can help lower the blood pressure, make the platelets less sticky and improve the blood flow.

Not all forms of chocolate contain high levels of flavanols. Cocoa is processed to produce chocolate. The more it is processed, the more these flavanols are lost. Most of the commercially available chocolates are highly processed. Chocolate manufacturers are now looking for ways to retain the flavanols.

It is better to choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate. Keep in mind that chocolates do not contain fats and calories. While the calories need to be counted, the fat levels in chocolates are not so high.

Dark chocolates also need to be eaten in moderation. Enjoying a piece of dark chocolate once in a while need not make one feel guilty.

Red wine

Consuming red wine is said to be good for heart. The alcohol and antioxidants in red wine may be cardio protective. They
are said to prevent heart disease by protecting the arteries against damage
and increasing the levels of 'good' cholesterol.

The antioxidants like flavonoids or a polyphenol called resveratrol in red wine have been credited with heart healthy effects. It is suggested that they prevent damage to the blood vessels, prevent clot formation and decrease the levels of bad cholesterol.

Not just red wine, but possibly moderate amounts of other forms of alcohol may also have heart healthy benefits. However, if you do not drink, there is no need to start. Alcohol as a way of preventing heart disease is not advocated.

If you are already drinking red wine, exercise moderation. For men, an average of two drinks a day and for women, one drink a day is defined as moderate drinking. One drink is around 355 ml of beer or 148 ml of wine of 80-proof distilled.

While apples and cranberries are
flavonol rich too, if you are looking for a 'healthy indulgence', dark chocolates and red wine in moderation are good for the heart.

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