I’m pretty sure I have captured your attention with this blog title, as there is something about this trifecta of foods that strikes an emotional cord with most people. Maybe it’s the social aspect of winding down with a glass of wine over dinner at the end of the day; or sharpening your focus with a cup of coffee in the morning; or experiencing the gastronomic pleasure that chocolate offers. Generally speaking, it is not our objective to have clients abstain from these foods – but it is our responsibility to provide the nutrition education necessary for them to make informed decisions about consumption and understand the health benefits as well as the risks.
Here are some nutrition facts about wine, chocolate, and coffee as well as some Living Plate Strategies for Responsible Consumption [SRC]:
- Alcohol is not a carbohydrate, protein, or fat. It contains no beneficial nutrients and carries 7 calories per gram.
- Current limits [note that I did not say recommendations] are 1, 5 oz. glass per day for women and 2, 5 oz. glasses per day for men. That does not mean that a week of abstinence earns a bottle at the end of the week – sorry…
- Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to several nutrition-related health conditions including liver disease, heart disease, cancer, hypertension, and overweight and obesity.
- Red wine carries added health benefits – the skins of red grapes are rich in resveratrol and polyphenols, compounds associated with disease prevention in adult populations.
- Alcohol is metabolized in the liver and it can only clear about 1 drink per hour. If you drink more than that, alcohol will accumulate in your body.
- Avoid sipping wine while preparing food – save it for the meal.
- When dining out, sip a mocktail prior to dinner and enjoy a glass of wine when your food comes. Here’s a Blackberry Lime Fizz from our own Julie Harrington!
- If sipping a cocktail before dinner is preferable, ask for half the alcohol. Try this delicious drink at home from our meal plan contributor Danielle Omar – it contains less than ½ serving of wine as Prosecco or you can use sparkling water for a mocktail: Citrus Mint Kiwi Bubbly
- When it comes to selecting your chocolate, cocoa content matters. Dark chocolate [~65% or greater] has powerful antioxidants known for their ability to lower blood pressure and improve heart health. These antioxidants may also have a role in cancer prevention.
- Dairy binds to the polyphenols in chocolate inhibiting their antioxidant activity. When selecting chocolate, look for dairy-free products.
- Cocoa vs. cacao: Cocoa is processed using heat and cacao is raw. Both maintain good levels of antioxidants, just be sure you select unsweetened varieties.
- Purchase mini dark chocolate chips to enjoy with your morning yogurt or overnight chia puddings. They are terrific as a snack as well – try dragging ripe strawberries through Greek yogurt and top with chips [a Living Plate Team favorite.]
- Melt 3 tablespoons of dark chocolate with 1 teaspoon of coconut oil and drizzle over cold fruit.
- Stir a few ounces of dark, unsweetened chocolate into your chili – it adds wonderful richness. Here is a great recipe from one of our meal plan contributors Oldways: Pumpkin Quinoa Chili
- Add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to your morning smoothie – terrific with blueberries and spinach.
- Coffee beans, like cocoa beans, are rich in phenolic compounds.
- Coffee is on the Foods That Fight Cancer list found on American Institute for Cancer Research website.
- Most promising research links moderate coffee consumption with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
- Excessive consumption of coffee [>4 cups per day] is related to conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, and hypertension.
- Avoid the lattes and other designer coffee blends , as the added dairy and excessive amounts of sugars may put your cup of morning Joe in the dessert category. Instead, opt for a cup of freshly brewed coffee with a splash of non-dairy milk.
- Like your coffee iced? Try pouring a dark coffee over ice with a splash of coconut milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon. This cold brew recipe from our meal plan contributors The Real Food RDs is delicious: Cold Brew Coffee
By Jeanne Petrucci, MS, RDN