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10 Times Serving Size Matters Most

Before you pour a glass of wine with dinner every night, you might want to take a closer look at the science behind the heart-healthy sales pitch. Red wine—among other things—has earned a reputation as an antioxidant powerhouse that can help ward of disease and signs of aging. While studies show this is true, do you know exactly how much wine test subjects were sipping? And more importantly, will you completely cancel out the benefits if you go overboard?

Use this quick guide to learn the perfect portion size to reap the most rewards of your favorite good-for-you foods and drinks. 

Dark Chocolate
Thanks to the nutrients in cocoa beans, pure dark chocolate is full of natural antioxidants. But that certainly doesn’t mean you can enjoy as much of this sweet treat as you’d like!

“Snap off a one-inch square for yourself to enjoy each night after dinner,” says Amie Valpone, author of The Healthy Apple blog and publisher of online gluten-free magazine Easy Eats. “Too much may constipate you and leave you wired before bedtime. Also, try unsweetened chocolate so you don’t have sugar highs and lows.”

Coconut Oil
Although coconut oil is a saturated fat, the thick, pasty substance is touted for its many advantages, like helping maintain cholesterol levels or achieve glowing skin and hair. In fact, studies suggest replacing margarine with coconut oil, using it to cook, or adding a spoonful to blended smoothies.

“Coconut oil has a delicious taste and is great when added to recipes for a flavorful punch, but it’s not calorie-free,” Valpone says. She recommends using only 2 tablespoons a day or less if possible, as even that small amount will pack on about 30 grams of fat.

Red Wine
Any excuse to knock back a glass of Merlot is a welcome one, especially since studies show that the antioxidant compound in red wine, resveratrol, can help combat heart disease. But in this case, too much of a good thing is detrimental to your overall health; heavy consumption of alcohol leads to obesity, liver disease, and an increased risk of cancer, among other things. The rule is to drink in moderation.

“Enjoy a few glasses of wine during the week,” Valpone says. “Three glasses a week is okay, but watch the sugar content and extra calories if you're watching your intake.”

Green Tea
Catechins, the potent antioxidants found in green tea, make this brew a well-known disease-fighter. But you won’t reap the tea’s powerful benefits unless you’re drinking quite a few cups a day.

“It’s safe to say you can have three to four cups a day, although some studies show more can help fight against certain cancers,” Valpone says.

That said, you may want to limit your intake, as one cup too many loads your body with caffeine.

Nuts
As part of a healthy diet, nuts make a wholesome treat, particularly because they contain unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. But incorporate the caloric snacks into your diet with caution, as you only need a small daily amount to harness their nutritive properties.

“I like to recommend a half cup of almonds a day or 10 to 15 nuts throughout the day enjoyed alone, ground into cookies and pasta dishes for a creamy texture, tossed into salads, or added to smoothies,” Valpone says.

Olive Oil
Olive oil is often celebrated for its benefits, closely tied to its monounsaturated fatty acid content and antioxidant properties. And while using olive oil to cook is recommended, it’s important to watch your intake.

“Although it’s a good fat, [olive oil] comes with 14 grams of fat per tablespoon,” Valpone says. “Use 2 tablespoons per day: one in your omelet and one in your stir-fry, then use vinegar or chicken broth for the remainder.”

Coffee
A cup of Joe is a staple in many morning routines, but that’s probably where you should stop each day. Though studies show that java’s anti-cancer properties put coffee drinkers at a lower risk for colon, breast, and rectal cancers, don’t use that as an excuse to chug away.

“Too much coffee can lead to jitters and shakes, as we all know the caffeine can do crazy things,” Valpone says. “I’d say one cup a day is fair, but try green or black tea instead since they're less acidic. Three cups of coffee a day is too much!”

Fatty Fish
Fatty, oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and trout are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, the good kind of fats that slow down plaque buildup in your arteries. But they’re called fatty fish for a reason and, despite their plethora of health benefits, are still high in calories. In addition, the high levels of mercury in certain fish like tuna are a good reason to curb your weekly intake. “Two servings a week is a great way to get omega-3s,” Valpone says.
Avocado
Smooth, creamy avocado is another example of a healthy fat. When you add avocado to your diet, your body absorbs more lycopene and beta-carotene, two powerful antioxidants.

“These healthy fats pack incredible flavor and pair perfectly on salads, with eggs, or atop poached fish and chicken,” Valpone says.

Again, however, too much avocado is unhealthy. “If this is your only source of fat, stick with one per day, but if you are already eating nuts and oils, try one-fourth or half an avocado per day,” Valpone recommends.

Garlic
Antioxidant-rich garlic possesses plenty of anti-cancer benefits, but you don’t need to drown your food in it to reap the reweards. “A clove a day or three cloves a week is a great start, as many people aren’t fans of garlic,” Valphone says. “If you are, toss roasted garlic into your omelets, salads, stir-fries, and protein dishes.”

If you’re eating bucketfuls of pungent garlic, however, be prepared for the possibility of stomach disorders, diarrhea, and allergic reactions.

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