Search IconSearch

Red Wine vs. Dark Chocolate: Which Is Healthier?

Moderation is key for both indulgences

Wine and dark chocolate

What’s the healthier treat: A glass of red wine with dinner or a square of dark chocolate after dinner?


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

The best food plan involves lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and olive oil. But there’s room for an occasional indulgence, too, says dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD.

Here’s the lowdown on these two treats, which have both been reported to have heart-healthy benefits.

A glass a day?

A study published in 1979 first showed a link between lower rates of heart disease in countries where people drank more wine, even though those countries often also had diets higher in saturated fat. This phenomenon later became known as The French Paradox, and it triggered much more research into the potential health benefits of wine.

At the forefront of this conversation is an all-star antioxidant called resveratrol. It’s found in grape skins (and wine), apples, peanuts, soy and other foods.

Non-human studies have found that resveratrol may protect against hypertension, hardening of the arteries, stroke, heart attack and heart failure. But studies in humans haven’t consistently shown these same effects.

“The effect, if it exists, is likely small,” Zumpano says.

But some long-term studies have linked light-to-moderate drinking in general with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

That light-to-moderate part is important, though. When it’s overdone, alcohol can become a risk factor for a number of chronic diseases and may trigger atrial fibrillation.

What does all of this mean? If you don’t drink, it’s not recommended that you start. But if you enjoy some alcohol as part of a healthy lifestyle, dietary guidelines and The American Heart Association recommend a maximum of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.


A bite of dark chocolate

Studies have linked moderate chocolate intake with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Why? It could be because cocoa beans are high in flavanols, a type of nutrient also found in some fruits, vegetables and tea. Research has linked flavanols to reduced blood pressure and improved heart health.

But processing may cut down some of the flavanol content, and the amount that ends up in your commercial chocolate bar varies by brand. Dark chocolate will have more than milk chocolate, but there’s no way to know for sure how much.

As with wine, there’s also a downside to chocolate. It’s high in calories, saturated fat and, sometimes, sugar. One ounce of dark chocolate can contain as many as 170 calories, and most average-sized chocolate bars are between 1.5 to 3.5 ounces, so it can be easy to go overboard.

The bottom line

Your best bet for heart health is to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats, and low in processed meat, dairy and sweets.

And if you enjoy them, moderate amounts of red wine and chocolate can be part of that. There are potential upsides and downsides to both.

“If you’re consuming small quantities of chocolate or the occasional glass of wine because you enjoy these foods, there’s no reason to change,” Zumpano reassures.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person in an apron, kitchen carrying a loaf of sour dough bread on tray
July 12, 2024/Nutrition
Is Sourdough Bread Healthy for You?

Sourdough can be healthier than some other bread choices — but that doesn’t give it ‘health food’ status

Bowl of horseradish
July 8, 2024/Nutrition
4 Health Benefits of Horseradish

This spicy root helps fight cancer, bacteria and inflammation

An array of meatless foods in different vessels on table
July 5, 2024/Nutrition
Going Vegan 101: A Beginner’s Guide

The meatless, plant-based eating style has countless tasty and healthy options

Hands cupping bowl of greens, chickpeas, whole figs, halved and tofu
July 3, 2024/Nutrition
4 Health Benefits of Figs

Packed with fiber and nutrients, this flower — yep, flower! — is great for your blood sugar, heart and gut

Assorted whole-grain foods, fruits, vegetables and nuts
June 21, 2024/Nutrition
Eating for Energy: Foods That Fight Fatigue

What’s on your plate can either help power you through your day or put you in nap mode

Person standing in front of oversized nutrition label, reading it
June 19, 2024/Nutrition
What Can You Learn From a Nutrition Label?

Information on serving size, calories and nutrients can help you make healthy choices

Piles of sugar alcohol
June 17, 2024/Nutrition
What You Should Know About Sugar Alcohols

Often labeled as ‘diabetes-friendly’ or ‘calorie-free,’ these sugar substitutes warrant caution

Person prepping mason jars with meals
June 14, 2024/Nutrition
Should You Eat the Same Thing Every Day? Learn the Pros and Cons

Repeating your meals can help simplify meal planning and counting calories, but it could also lead to boredom and nutritional deficiencies

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims