A vast list of foods that we need to avoid exists, and that list grows larger each day. Many of us have already crossed much of our favorite foods off our shopping lists, but that does not need to happen. Thanks to the wonderful word of moderation…we can resume our gastronomic pleasures (virtually) guilt free!

Consuming alcohol in excess leads to numerous health problems: cirrhosis, weight gain, certain cancers, and is the leading cause for arising the next morning with a tender head, asking, "Did I really do THAT?" Moderation has many health benefits, and less blushes, should we keep within the guidelines.

Studies have suggested drinking one glass of red wine per day may help your heart. The remarkable value of antioxidants in red wine may help in reducing the risk of a heart attack by 30-50 percent. While not definitely proven, there are also indications that one glass per day may raise your good cholesterol (HDL), and lower your bad cholesterol (LDL). Moderation: one glass per day is good; one bottle per day is not!

Another food that is great for the heart is chocolate; we no longer have to cross it off our lists provided we follow the guidelines. While milk and white chocolate have no claims to health benefits, dark chocolate does. Enjoying 100g (or 3.5oz) of pure dark chocolate (with nuts or flavor only) can reduce blood pressure. Should you have cholesterol issues, this sweet delight may reduce your LDL (bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent. Regardless of how well they go together though, avoid eating this treat with milk. Milk may reduce or inhibit the absorption of the antioxidant in dark chocolate.

The ingredients have other added benefits: we get a feeling of pleasure from the stimulation of endorphins, which dark chocolate produces, depression can be relieved thanks to the serotonin contained within, and the caffeine and other stimulants provide us with an "up" feeling. Though chocolate does contain fat, dark chocolate contains equal amounts of Oleic, Stearic, and Palmitic acids; of these 3 only the Palmitic acid is bad for you in potentially raising cholesterol and risk of heart disease…that is only 1/3 of the bar! The ingredients to avoid are caramel, nougat, crisped rice etc…

Moderation: 100g per day is good; one large bar per day is not!

When you consider foods to take in moderation, consider nuts. Agreed, they are high in calories and fat, but they are also rich in fiber, antioxidants, and Omega-3 (a good fat that reduces LDL). If this nutritious snack can be limited to 28-56g (1-2 oz) per day, you may reduce your risk of heart disease and cardiac death. Consider substituting nuts for less nutrient-dense foods, such as replacing walnuts for croutons in your salad, or peanuts/pecans for chocolate chips the next time you bake cookies! Moderation: a small handful per day is good; a cup per day is not!

Enjoy your moderation, bon appetite!