Naturally Healthy Living, The Healthy Plate

Why Dark Chocolate and Red Wine are Essential for Healthy Eyes!

Guest post contributed by Dr. Tessa Sokol, OD

Disclaimer: The following information has not been approved by the FDA. This information should not be interpreted as medical advice and is not a substitute for a visit with a medical care professional. Always speak to your doctor about any health concerns. 

With summer celebrations going strong, some of us may be feeling a bit guilty for having that glass of red wine on the outdoor patio, or that extra piece of chocolate at the dinner party last weekend.

Well, fret no longer! Dark chocolate and red wine are actually good for your vision and can protect you from a number of diseases in your eyes! You probably don’t feel as guilty now, right? Eat and drink up! Here’s a toast to your ocular health!

Why Is Dark Chocolate Good for Your Vision?

Much to the delight of chocolate lovers, dark chocolate has started to develop a reputation as a health food (when consumed in moderation, mind you.) The cocoa in it contains polyphenols called flavonoids, which are compounds that can exert a number of effects on the body, such as reducing inflammation, increasing blood flow and acting as an antioxidant. Because the health benefits come from the cocoa, choosing dark chocolate (70% or greater) is important!

How, exactly, does this help your eyes?

Chronic systemic inflammation leads to oxidative damage to our bodies. In the eyes, this inflammation can create redness, pain, and blurred vision. Long term, it also can lead to serious sight-threatening eye diseases like Macular Degeneration! Reducing inflammation with food — like dark chocolate — is critical to preserving healthy eyes and retinas as we age.

Eating dark chocolate is also believed to increase blood flow to the brain, retina and optic nerve, which, as a result, can better your vision. Scientists discovered that adults who ate a bar of dark chocolate saw a significant increase in visual clarity, motion detection, and contrast sensitivity in the 2 hours after consumption.

This was compared to adults who ate milk chocolate and saw no visual improvement at all. The researchers suggest this result might be due to this increased blood flow to the eye.

Glaucoma is an eye disease that results in damage to the optic nerve and leads to blindness. The good news is that the antioxidant properties of the flavonoids found in dark chocolate can aid in the reduction of oxidative stress on the optic nerve, which in turn can protect the eyes from further damage.

In addition to all of these benefits, the copper found in dark chocolate has been found to prevent damage to the optic nerve as well. While people only need a small amount of copper per day, dark chocolate has over half of the recommended daily dose. This means that after one serving of dark chocolate, you’re well on your way to optic nerve health!

By eating chocolate, the quality of your vision may improve, but I’m sorry to break the news to you that eating massive amounts of chocolate will never get you to ditch the eyeglasses! No amount of chocolate will change your glasses prescription.

Nevertheless, as the wise woman used to say, when one cannot live on chocolate alone, add a bit of wine!

Why Is Red Wine Good for Your Vision?

Red wine seems to have always been linked to health benefits for the body, but studies now show that red wine helps eye health too! Red wine contains a chemical compound called resveratrol that is found in the skin of certain red grapes.

Resveratrol is a phytoalexin, which is a substance made by the tissues of plants to help combat infection from a pathogen and works as a part of the plant’s defense system. While you can also find it in grape juice, Resveratrol is 1,000 times more concentrated in red wine because of fermentation.

Scientists have found that resveratrol helps prevent the formation of abnormal blood vessels in some forms of blinding eye diseases like Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Retinopathy. This is very important because it is those blood vessels that have the biggest damaging impact on eyesight in the advanced stages of the disease.

Coupled with high doses of the antioxidant zeaxanthin, Resveratrol has also been shown to even reverse early damage to the retina (drusen). This is groundbreaking information, given there are no other treatments at this stage! Resveratrol is as close to an anti-aging substance as you can get!

While drinking any form of alcohol excessively can have detrimental effects on your body, moderately drinking red wine may help you have healthy eyes. Adding that dark chocolate along with it will give you an additional little boost!

Who said being healthy had to be hard work?

Cheers!

Dr. Tessa Sokol


1 Rabin J, OD, MS, PhD; Karunathilake N, BS, MS; Patrizi K, BS Effects of Milk vs Dark Chocolate Consumption on Visual Acuity and Contrast Sensitivity Within 2 Hours, JAMA Ophthalmol. 2018;136(6):678-681. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaophthalmology/article-abstract/2678792?utm_campaign=articlePDF&utm_medium=articlePDFlink&utm_source=articlePDF&utm_content=jamaophthalmol.2018.0978


*Disclaimer: All information and recommendations given on this site, in email correspondence, newsletters or other materials provided by The Healthy Place is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice nor be viewed as a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider. Consult a licensed healthcare practitioner before modifying, stopping, or starting the use of any medications, health programs, diets, and/or supplements, as well as regarding any health concerns you may have. Our statements and information have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As with any health-related program, product, or service, your risks and results may vary. We expressly disclaim responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the information provided to you here.”


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Dr. Tessa Sokol has been in the optical field for over 20 years, gaining education, experience, and a broad skill set in all-things eyes. She began her journey in vision health with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and then received her doctorate in optometry at the Illinois College of Optometry. Upon graduating with honors, Dr. Sokol greatly expanded her experience with four optometric internships throughout the country.

West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida: Trained in ocular disease, low vision rehabilitation, advanced medical care, and surgical co-management.
Child and Family Optometry Clinic in Wichita, Kansas: Studied developmental vision disorders, vision therapy, and pediatric optometry.
Naval Hospital and Parris Island Marine Training Facility in Beaufort, South Carolina: Developed an understanding of primary care and contact lens fittings.
Illinois Eye Institute in Chicago, Illinois: Provided advanced ocular disease and pediatric care as well as low vision examinations and device fittings.

Following her education, Dr. Sokol took her talents to rural Georgia where she practiced for several years. Like all true Wisconsinites, she returned home to Madison, Wisconsin where she now runs Sokol Advanced EyeCare, an independent eye care clinic.

Dr. Sokol enjoys contributing a significant amount of effort to Wisconsin Optometric Association (WOA), American Optometric Association (AOA), InfantSEE, Volunteer Optometric Service to Humanity (VOSH), and OneSight. She often travels internationally to serve in underprivileged areas without access to eye care. She also gives back to her community by providing examinations and screenings to infants and children for early detection of visual development.

Dr. Sokol is well-versed in the optical field! In addition to her professional work and community activities, she is one of our blog contributors, providing valuable information and recommendations on how to maintain healthy eyes and vision throughout our lives. And just like the rest of us here at The Healthy Place, she loves to stay active! She enjoys cycling, running, playing with her dogs, learning how to fly, cooking for dinner parties, and even taking part in planning Madison’s St. Patrick’s Day parade — whew!