So many of us know what it is to have a vice. That slice of chocolate cake in the fridge that waits for us at the end of a long day, the glass of wine that we look forward to soothing our fraying nerves, or maybe a chilled beer that we share with our friends on a Friday to celebrate another week of adulthood completed successfully. We have another name for these little fixes: our guilty pleasures.
“Treat yourself” is the anthem of self-care, yet the treats we give ourselves often come at a price. We often can’t enjoy them fully without a certain measure of shame. While our self-indulgent splurges seem essential to our mental wellbeing, we partake with a certain awareness that there is some kind of negative trade-off when it comes to our physical health. Well, maybe it’s time to let ourselves off the hook! In fact, a scientific study may have linked the consumption of chocolate, wine, and beer not only to better health but a longer life!
The Magic Ingredient: It’s In The Science
A 2018 study lead by Joanna Kaluza of Warsaw University measured the effects of a specific quality in foods. (1) This particular element is something that a number of popular “guilty pleasures” contain, including our favorites chocolate, wine, and beer, but also things like coffee and teas. So what do these foods all have in common? According to researchers, it is the anti-inflammatory nature of these foods that links them.
The study focused on a group of 68,000 men and women aged 45 to 83. researchers of observed that those that followed a certain diet were 18% less likely to die over a 16 year period than others. Theirs was a regimen of fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread, low-fat cheeses, and included our earlier mentioned “guilty pleasures” — all food associated with anti-inflammatory potential. Specifically, the findings were that those whose eating habits were in line with an anti-inflammatory diet had a 20% lower risk of suffering fatal cardiovascular problems, and a 13% lower risk of dying from cancer. Subjects who were smokers and followed this diet had fewer health issues than smokers who didn’t.
The antioxidants found in cocoa (chocolate, 2), grapes (wine, 3), and barley (beer, 4) are what provide these foods with the anti-inflammatory properties necessary to be included in this study. In the case of the alcoholic options, moderation is key to ensuring that the potential for health benefits are not counteracted by the harm that the toxins in alcohol can do to our bodies. (5) But as Joanna Kaluza writes in the publication of her study, “even partial adherence to the anti-inflammatory diet may provide a health benefit.”
With that in mind, we can take some comfort from the results of Kaluza’s research! While it is important to maintain a balanced and healthy diet of other anti-inflammatory food choices, a few of our favorite fixes can also be found among the ranks. The next time you settle in for a little self-indulgence, lose a little of the guilt that goes with it! You might be doing yourself a bigger favor than you thought.