May 10, 2020/Nutrition

Red Wine vs. Dark Chocolate: Which Is Healthier?

A dietitian breaks down claims about their health benefits

Wine and dark chocolate

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


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 treat, 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.

Studies done in animals 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 say.

However, 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 of 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 says.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Heart-healthy foods in a heart-shaped dish on wooden table with other heart-shaped filled bowls
April 26, 2024/Nutrition
Heart-Healthy Foods To Add to Your Grocery List

Eating more natural, whole foods can lower your risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases

Spoonful of apple cider vinegar
March 27, 2024/Weight Loss
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help You Lose Weight?

The science on ACV isn’t very promising for weight loss or appetite suppression

Female and male waking up with hangovers in aftermath of a party
March 13, 2024/Digestive
Hangover Pills Aren’t Worth the Hype

Misleading claims, lack of scientific evidence and the risk of over-doing it are all concerns

Couple enjoying mixed drinks during the day in a bar
March 1, 2024/Wellness
Here’s Why Day Drinking Feels Different

Drinking during the day can result in drinking more than usual and worsen your sleep cycle

blurred person looking out window in background with glass of wine and bottle in foreground
February 21, 2024/Brain & Nervous System
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Brain?

Even one drink can have an impact on your cognitive function leading to slurred speech, blurred vision and impaired memory

Glasses of alcohol on wooden stump outside in the snow, with bottle nearby
February 16, 2024/Wellness
Drinking Alcohol in the Cold? 5 Tips on How To Stay Safe

A cold one out in the cold can cause a false sense of warmth and increase your risk of hypothermia

Closeup of people holding up shot glasses
February 15, 2024/Digestive
What Does Alcohol Do to Your Body? 9 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health

Alcohol affects your whole body, from your liver and immune system to your brain and mental health

assorted vessels of olive oil on a wooden table with olives in spoon
January 16, 2024/Nutrition
6 Major Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

EVOO is full of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, both of which aid your body in multiple ways

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey