The Benefits of Chocolate for Older Women

December 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Health, Womens Health

Now how could I resist telling you about this, particularly as we approach Christmas when you are bound to be given the odd box or two? My mother used to give me a tin of Roses, a ‘chest’ of Terry’s Old Gold and a box of Black Magic which started me on the road to a sweet tooth, but from which she also got to eat more chocolate than my father approved as she was only helping me out by eating at least half!

So in that spirit back to the benefits of chocolate for older women, which was studied in a controlled trial over 10-years by researchers at the University of Western Australia. Their findings were that women over 70 are less likely to die or be hospitalized due to heart disease if they are regular chocolate eaters. This is the first study in older women that demonstrates a link between chocolate intake and reduced atherosclerotic plaque, which causes ASVD (Arteriosclerotic Vascular Disease).

Of the subjects involved in the research, more than 47% had less than a serving of chocolate per week; about 36% consumed one to six servings per week; and the remaining 17% had more than seven servings. A single serving in this case was equivalent to the amount of cocoa found in one cup of hot raw cocoa – or perhaps a tenth of the top tray of Black Magic (dark chocolate being healthier than milk).

The group that consumed the most chocolate had the least incidence of heart-related death or hospitalization (42 incidents); the group that had six servings or fewer had 90 incidents of cardiovascular-related problems; and the group that rarely consumed chocolate had the highest rate of heart-related problems (158 incidents).

Everyone in the trial regardless of how often they ate chocolate had similar overall results, which suggests that one serving per week could have significant benefits – if you can manage to keep it to that level!

This is not the only study to extol the benefits of chocolate: raw cocoa, the principal ingredient in chocolate, is rich in flavonoids. Previous studies have found that flavonoids have been associated with a 50% lower risk of heart-related deaths and in 2008 Italian researchers found that regular consumption of dark chocolate may reduce inflammation linked to heart and blood vessel disease.

If chocolate isn’t to your taste, then you can get the same benefit from foods rich in flavonoids, such as apples, apricots, blueberries, pears, raspberries, strawberries, cabbage, onions, parsley, and of course red wine as all have been shown to be helpful in postmenopausal women to prevent coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

High blood pressure? Eat more beetroot – or chocolate – or garlic!

July 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Health

Before you succumb to medication for high blood pressure there are a number of things you can try to bring it down naturally. The two best-known, and most frequently recommended are to lose weight and take more exercise. Now we can add a third element and that is the humble beetroot, which according to research from Queen Mary University of London can indeed lower your blood pressure.

It seems that the reason it can do this is down to the nitrate content of beetroot juice, according to the study, published online in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension. Their study found that blood pressure was lowered within 24 hours in people who took nitrate tablets, and people who drank beetroot juice.

Cardiovascular disease (including stroke and heart attacks) now ranks as the world’s biggest killer and those seeking a natural approach to lowering blood pressure just need to get out their juicer. The nitrate found in beetroot juice is beneficial because it increases the levels of the gas nitric oxide in the circulation.

Whether the volunteers in the study were given inorganic nitrate capsules or beetroot juice when their blood pressure responses were compared they were found to be equally effective in lowering blood pressure. This clearly demonstrates that it is the nitrate content of beetroot juice that underlies its potential to reduce blood pressure.

If you’re not a particular fan of beetroot, then take heart from because the study found that only a small amount of juice is needed — just 250ml — to have this effect, and that the higher the blood pressure at the start of the study the greater the decrease caused by the nitrate.

In fact if you prefer you might want to pay attention to some new research which shows that just a small amount of chocolate a day can help in reducing high blood pressure in individuals suffering from hypertension. Naturally, it has to be a good quality dark chocolate containing 70% cocoa as that is rich in flavanols, which open up your blood vessels to help the blood flow more freely and so causing the pressure to drop.

Dr. Karin Ried from the University of Adelaide, Australia carried out the study and is also the one that in 2008 conducted a study which found that garlic extract has a significant beneficial effect for high blood pressure sufferers. In Brighton, where I live, there is a chocolate shop which has all kinds of wonderful combination, chilli chocolate being just one of them, but I don’t think I’ve seen a garlic one yet. Perhaps I could suggest a beetroot and garlic combo so you could get all those blood pressure lowering ingredients in one delicious bar!

Is chocolate good for your heart?

October 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Medical Research & Studies

Well, knowing me as you do you can bet the answer is yes – in fact I haven’t found anything it isn’t good for – though to be honest I haven’t looked very hard! You can imagine my delight when some wonderful Italian researchers recently calculated how much chocolate we need daily to protect against heart disease. Sadly, it’s not much – only 6.7 grams – about the amount you would get from eating two or three small squares of dark chocolate per week = as if that were possible! However, as part of one of the largest health studies ever conducted in Europe, they checked participants’ levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for chronic inflammation in the body that indicates an increased risk of heart disease. Then they related CRP levels to chocolate intake and found that participants who ate moderate amounts of dark chocolate regularly had significantly lower levels of CRP. Sadly, I feel must also point out that if you do eat more than the equivalent of 6.7 grams of chocolate per day, the beneficial effects on CRP levels seem to disappear. That’s a plus for those self-disciplined souls who can open a bar of chocolate and not consume it all, and a blow for those who can’t!

Chocolate treats – But don’t eat them

March 12, 2008 by  
Filed under featured, Food & Nutrition, Health, Skincare, Wellness

Easter is upon us, and the array of chocolate stretches to infinity and beyond, but not everyone can eat chocolate – or indeed wants to.

If you are, or know, someone like that then can I suggest a couple of healthy alternatives – and no it is not carob, because however virtuous carob may be, it cannot be a substitute for chocolate. I have yet to think what it might be a substitute for, but give me time.

First, let me commend you to those wonderful people at Lush who hand make a range of beauty treats from all-natural ingredients at incredibly low prices. The two you might want to consider as gifts are: Soft Coeur – if you don’t’ have elementary French, think Soft Heart or as the wonderful Lush Times describes it,’The Honeymooner’.

If you are looking for a messy massage bar made from honey, cocoa and natural butters this is a real treat – just don’t forget to massage with it and not masticate it.

Secondly, the other product of theirs I can highly recommend is the Cupcake facemask, which is recommended for oily, congested, skin. Something you might well have if you have over indulged in the real chocolate Easter treats. It is an anti-microbial cleansing mask made from Rahassoul mud – which gives it the chocolaty colour from which it takes its name, and sandalwood, spearmint and peppermint oils to give your skin a boost. Buy from their stores or online at

Finally, there is a great craze for raw chocolate at the moment, and one way to get your fix is with another face pack, this time from organic skin care company Raw Gaia. They have launched the world’s first raw chocolate face pack and like all their products it is hand made, organic, vegan and cruelty-free. It contains raw chocolate powder, the highest known source of antioxidants in the world, plus red clay, organic turmeric and organic amla (an Ayurvedic herb) fruit powder.

The nutritional content of raw chocolate powder is amazing: there are over 25,200 antioxidants in a single spoonful of the stuff and raw chocolate powder contains 367% more antioxidants than its cooked version. You can buy it from good health food shops or online from Gaiaa. It costs £8.20 for 50grams and won’t put a single extra ounce of weight on your hips – honest.