The nine health benefits of dark chocolate to brighten a cold winterís day

Friday 25th January 2013 

  • When a wise woman speaks it is best to listen
  • How to live with the guilt of being a chocoholic
  • The nine health benefits of dark chocolate to brighten a cold winter's day

So, a calmer letter is needed.

These were the words of my dear beloved Lara, who it turns out has been getting a little worried about how vexed Iíve been of late.

Maybe she has been getting a headache as she hears me thudding away at the computer keyboard, or perhaps the fact that the dog has taken to hiding under her feet rather than laying at mine is upsetting her. Or just perhaps she is worried about my own health.

It is true that Iíve become engrossed in the whole food and legislation debate, and the angry man in me has risen up with a clubbed fist.

In fact, being forced to sit in the office by the weather has driven me back to the research papers that I have been neglecting over the past few weeks Ė and that has made me much calmer as I read of the kind of research that I approve of.

To start with I enjoyed reading a paper submitted by a team from Gloucester Royal Hospital who wholeheartedly endorsed a cup of milky hot chocolate to boost brain power.

The paper was published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, and was picked up again after the authors wrote into Practical Neurology in the UK.

The original finding was that chocolate consuming nations had a greater percentage of Nobel Prize winners that those that werenít chocoholics.

In their subsequent letter they qualified this by saying:

ďChocolate is not usually consumed on its own, often being combined with milk either as a drink or as milk chocolate.Ē

Clearly they have never visited Chez Collins, because there is nothing I like better than a square or two of real, rich, pure dark chocolate.
It is one of those guilty secrets that I have - I know too much is bad for me but also that a small amount will boost my health in so many ways.

Getting the most out of sin...

No Iím not advocating doing anything that your vicar wouldnít do, purely that you should follow the adage that a little of what you fancy will do you good... even the bad stuff!

At a time of year when everyone else is talking about diets, how about thinking favourably on something that is often considered a sin?

The risk of descending into gluttony is obviously there when it comes to chocolate, however there is much to commend good chocolate to the most health conscious among you.

Finding healthy chocolate isnít as hard a job as it might seem Ė and certainly isnít worth paying through the nose for some of the stuff you see advertised on the web.

Basically, any bar that has pure cocoa solids content accounting for greater than 70% is going to have all the good stuff you need... but if you can get the 85% product then it is a true health elixir.

- Chocolate contains essential trace elements and nutrients such as iron, calcium and potassium, and vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E.

- Cocoa is also the highest natural source of magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is linked with hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, joint problems and pre-menstrual tension.

- Furthermore, chocolate can be shown to raise good cholesterol levels (HDL) as shown in a study in 2001 conducted by Pennsylvania State University, and lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL) as seen in a 2005 trial in Italy.

- Chocolate consumption was shown to help lower the risk of having a stroke in a 2011 study from Sweden; women who ate more than 45 grams a week had a 20% lower incidence than those who ate less than 9 grams.

- Dark chocolate can help reduce hunger pangs according to a small study from the University of Copenhagen, and may even reduce cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.

- A small Italian study from 2005 found that regularly eating dark chocolate increases insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing risk of diabetes.

- Despite the fact that the school nurse used to tell me that eating chocolate gave me blackheads, I have discovered that the flavenoids in dark chocolate actually help promote healthy skin Ė and protect from ultra-violet light damage.

- Dark chocolate contains high levels of a compound called theobromine which detunes the nerves that make us cough, especially the powerful cranial nerve called the vagus. So, if youíve got one of those hard to shift coughs pop a square of chocolate on your tongue and ease the impulse.

- Lastly, and significantly for me Ė chocolate really does improve your mood. If you are feeling unloved, miserable or just plain angry then a square or two of chocolate gently rolled around the mouth will make the world a much better place.

A few words to make you smile

I think we have all been appalled by the news from Ireland about the contamination of the beef burgers with horsemeat, but out of adversity there is always the occasional joke that makes one smile.

I thought Iíd share a few from the lads in the Nags Head with you Ė purely as a way to take the stress out of the situation rather than make light of it you understand.

- I had some Tescoís burgers for my tea last night Ė they gave me the trots!

- Supermarket burgers are bad for you, they are full of fat and Shergar!

- I ordered a burger in the Tescoís cafe today, the waiter asked if I wanted anything on it, so I asked for a pound each way!

As you know Iím not top of the popularity lists with the mega-emporia of food, and this is just another incidence of the carelessness that comes about when money matters most.

It is a spectacular failure for all concerned, and I for one cannot believe how they have shot themselves in the foot... or hoof.

Hope you are all enjoying the benefits of a few quiet days in with the family whilst the snow prevents too much charging about.

Sometimes we need a nudge to quieten down, and this week has been mine... canít promise it will last though.

Iíll be back with you on Sunday with a story about why there is a solid link between the Potteries and the Mediterranean... canít see it? Well itíll be my pleasure to let you into the secret.


Yours, as always







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