Eight Reasons To Eat Chocolate This Easter


Eating chocolate is good for you. So is drinking red wine! Every once in a while, retailers, manufacturers, or just someone who wants to get your attention (yes, like me) comes up with some more good reasons for eating chocolate.


Here are eight of them.



1. It Makes you Feel Good

In my opinion, the main reason why chocolate is good for you is that it tastes nice, and you therefore gain some psychological benefits from the very fact that it makes you feel good.

One study of elderly European men found that those who preferred chocolate had better mental health than those who preferred other types of confectionary. The chocolate preferrers were significantly less likely to be depressed or lonely and much more likely to feel upbeat about the future.

You’ll not reap the psychological benefits of eating chocolate if you’re so busy feeling guilty about eating it that you’re not able to fully enjoy it, so take note of the other 6 benefits, to be sure to get the best feel-good moment from tucking into that extra egg. Make sure it’s a dark chocolate egg though, as it’s dark chocolate full of cocoa that offers the improved health effects form polyphenols, particularly flavanols.


2. Increased Nitric Oxide Production

Chocolate can increase the amount of nitric oxide produced by the endothelium. The endothelium

lines the inside of the arteries. The nitric oxide it produces causes the arteries to expand and thereby facilitate blood flow. Nitric oxide also protects against the formation of blood clots, and protects against the hardening of the walls of the blood vessels. It is the flavanol content in the cocoa in chocolate that stimulates the production of nitric oxide. Flavanols can be found in many fruits and vegetables such as onion, tomato, apple, grape, berries, , kale, broccoli, lettuce and other leafy green vegetables. As a rule, the greener the leaf, the more flavanols.


3. Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular disease

One large study reported that men with high cocoa intake were 50% less likely to die of cardiovascular causes than men with low cocoa intake. Another study reported that the more chocolate an individual consumed, the less chance they had of dying from cardiovascular complications. Individuals who consumed chocolate more than once a week were 66% less likely to die of cardiovascular causes compared to those who never ate chocolate, while those who consumed chocolate less than once a month were 27% less likely to experience cardiovascular mortality.


4. Reduced Blood Pressure

Evidence suggests that consuming chocolate can reduce blood pressure as much as some medications used to reduce blood pressure, and chocolate consumption could reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease by 20% and 10% respectively.


5. Reduced Inflammation

A high level of C-reactive protein in the blood (CRP) is a marker of inflammation in the body and an indicator of cardiovascular disease. One study has shown that consumption of dark chocolate was inversely related to the levels of CRP in the blood. Hate to tell you however, that this was only so long as the chocolate consumption was moderate-approx 20ms dark chocolate every 3 days-and that’s not very much. When greater levels were consumed, the association disappeared.


6. Improved Insulin Sensitivity

A study of people in good health with an average age of 34 years reported improved insulin sensitivity in subjects who consumed dark chocolate, compared to those who consumed white chocolate. Insulin sensitivity improved after just 15 days of consuming 100 grams of dark chocolate per day. [100 gms/day-now that’s more like it]. Dark chocolate is polyphenol rich, whilst the white chocolate contained no polyphenols.


7. Boost to Your Brain Power

Evidence suggests that elderly people who consume chocolate have better cognitive function than those who do not. A Norwegian study of 70-74 year olds showed that chocolate intake in the past year was associated with better performance on a number of cognitive tests. The best cognitive performance was achieved with consumption of 10 grams of chocolate per day.


8. Photoprotection

In the human body, the skin provides photoprotection (protection from light) by absorbing the sun’s rays. This results in the production of free radical molecules which can cause damage to skin cells and result in the growth of cancerous cells.

Nutritional intake is one factor affecting skin photoprotection and dietary antioxidants (including flavanols in cocoa) are thought to have a photoprotective effect. It is possible they reduce the sensitivity of skin cells to UV exposure.

One study which compared the effect of UV-exposure on the skin of women who had consumed high and low flavanol cocoa drinks daily prior to UV exposure, reported reduced sunburn and improved skin condition greater blood flow to skin, increased skin density and hydration) amongst women who consumed the high flavanol cocoa drink.


Of course, all of these benefits can be gained by consuming other anti oxidant rich foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, without adding the chocolate, but where would be the fun in that?

Reference: virtualmedicalcentre.com

Fun Run Entry Deadlines

LINDFIELD-FUN-RUN-START1.jpgThe fun run season is hotting up. If you’re like me, you’re being bombarded by emails advising you that registrations have opened, early bird entries are closing, etc etc. It’s all a bit hard to keep track of, so I thought I’d put together a list of some of the fun runs I know you like to enter, along with their entry deadlines.

Some of the advantages of early bird entry include a saving on the entry fee, and having your race kit mailed to you, rather than having to go to the race expo prior to race day to pick up your kit. Some races do not offer early bird entry, and some don’t mail your race kits.

Keep in mind that most fun runs have a limited capacity, and some reach capacity well before race day.

Every effort has been made to be accurate with dates, but if you’re planning on a particular race, it’s a good idea to check yourself. There’s no substitute for planning and a double check.


Fun Run

Early Bird Deadline

Entry Deadline

Entry On Race Day

City to Surf
11th Aug

Midnight 28th March. have your race info posted, and save $15


Until capacity reached, so get in early Not available
Sri Chinmoy Centennial Park
1st April 
 Fri 29th March 5pm  6:45-7:55am
Lindfield Fun Run
7th April
Saturday 30th March-close of business – not time specified Website says 24 hrs before race start, but get in by Friday 5th by 5pm, just in case

Before 7:45 if capacity not reached. I haven’t seen them close the registrations yet, but there’s always a first time


SMH Half Marathon
19th May 
4th April
Save $25 
Until capacity reached, so register early  Not Available
Hooked on Health Kids Cross Country
Race 4 7th April 
Midday, 5th April  Prior to 8:45
Mothers Day Classic
12th May
5pm Wed 10th April

Online 12 noon, wed 8th May. Mailed entries, Fri 3rd. All entries Fri 3rd to have bib posted


From 6:30 am. Also Domain on Sat 11th 2-5pm.
Hooked on Health Kids Cross Country
Race 5 28th April 
Midday 26th April  Prior to 8:45am
Hooked on Health Kids Cross Country
Race 6 5th May 
Midday May 3rd Prior to 8:45am
Manly Fun Run
19th May 
 9th May  9am 17th May Before 7:30 am
Minimos Marathon
16th June 
Midnight 12th May Midnight, 15th June  From 6am
Gold Coast Marathon
6th & 7th July 
Midnight 22nd May Friday 5th July Not Available
Sri Chinmoy Centennial Park
9th June
7th June, 5pm 6:45-7:55am


I Had a Fall Today: Reduce Your Risk of Falling as You Age

I am well and truly getting old. Not only have I recently run a race in the 50-59 category (albeit 7 months before my time), I had a fall today. It absolutely knocked the stuffing out of me.  Had to take myself for a little sit down and a good swear. In fact I was too shaken up to swear too vigoursly, just a couple of quiet “buggers”.

Whilst there was definitely a reason for my falling – inappropriate footwear, rushing over rubbly rocks and broken bricks, carrying large plastic parts of a climbing gym, trying to get something done in a rush before taking the kids to school – it did get me to thinking how awful it would be to fall when you are 80, especially if there was no apparent reason for it.

  • One in three people aged 65 and over report falling at least once/year.
  • About 10% result in serious injury such as fractures
  • Falls can lead to the need for residential care – don’t know that I’m ready for a nursing home just yet, but then, who ever is?

Falls are not an inevitable part of ageing. There’s lots you can do to prevent them.

Falls Risk Factors

  • Age: The risk of falling increases as you age. Women are more likely than men to fall
  • Previous falls: Approx 60% of people who fall, will fall again in the next 6 months
  • Decreased bone density. This both contributes to the risk of falling, and often can mean worse injuries as the result of a fall
  • Lack of regular exercise. This can cause poor muscle tone, decreased strength, and loss of bone mass and flexibility, which in turn will increase the risk of a fall.
  • Side effects of medication can make people dizzy and susceptible to falling
  • Environmental hazards
  • Inability to realise own physical limitation (NOTE TO SELF)

Fall Prevention

  • One of the keys to preventing falls, is to get active before you reach middle age, and stay active with good muscle tone, bone strength, balance and flexibility into old age.
  • Take it easy if you’re not as young as you used to be
  • Address environmental factors
  • Address any side effects caused by medication by speaking with your supervising doctor about it

The Department of Veterans Affairs document “PreventingFalls” has some good info on the subject. There are a couple of exercises below which they recommend. They will be familiar to those of you who come to our FitSquad and Circuit Classes. The full document can be found at:


Strengthening exercises:
Adapted from the Otago Exercise Programme to prevent falls in older adults – ACC (New Zealand)

Knee Bends

Knee Bends

Stand up tall and look ahead
Place your feet shoulder-width apart
Squat down half way, bending your knees
The knees go over the toes
When you feel your heels start to lift, straighten up




Sit To Stand

Sit to standYou can do this exercise while you watch TV
Sit on a chair which is not too low
Place your feet behind your knees
Lean forward over your knees
Stand up slowly without usingyour hands
Stand for five seconds, then sit down slowly without using your hands Repeat

Note: use one hand for support if having difficutly


Balance exercises:
Adapted from the Choose Health; Be Active booklet,
Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Australian Government
Department of Health and Ageing.

Single Leg Balance

Single leg balanceStand next to the kitchen bench or the back of a sturdy chair– hold on if you need to
Lift your right leg and stand for 10 seconds on your left leg
Repeat 5 times
Repeat with other leg
If you feel steady enough, do it without holding on
If you are very steady on your feet, try this with your eyes shut



Heal Toe Walking

heal toe walkingStand next to a support (the kitchen bench will do) for this walking exercise
Step forward by putting the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other foot, so that they touch (or almost touch) and then step forward with the other foot
Repeat for 2 minutes
If you can do this easily without holding on, try it with your eyes shut. Have someone stand next to you to support you if you need help





Is Your BPA-Free Drink Bottle Really Safe?


Runners and other exercisers regularly swig water from plastic bottles. For the most part, we’re aware of the dangers of using drink bottles containing BPA, and more than likely, you choose to drink out of a BPA-free plastic bottle.

Many manufacturers are aware of our fear of exposure to BPA, and our fear of exposing our children to BPA. BPA-free has become a marketing mantra.

We all slavishly buy drink bottles which are BPA free so that we’re not consuming those nasty chemicals, and we all send our kids off to school secure in the knowledge that they are packing the latest BPA-free drink bottle in their holster!


Drink bottles are not the only products that contain BPA however, and BPA is not the only chemical contained in plastics that we should be wary of.

What is BPA?

BPA (Bisphenol A) is a chemical used in the manufacture of two common synthetic products

  • Polycarnbonate – that’s the clear, rigid plastic found in a large number of consumer products including food containers and drink bottles
  • Epoxy resins – used in industrial adhesives and coatings. Epoxy coating lines most of the food and drink cans you buy in the supermarket

Other BPA containing products

  • Certain thermal paper products such as cash register receipts
  • BPAs may also be used in toys and some dental sealants and composites

BPA is a synthetic oestrogen that can disrupt the endocrine system. Even small levels of BPA in the body has been linked to conditions such as infertility, breast and reproductive system cancer, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, behavioural changes in children and resistance to chemotherapy treatments. http://www.ewg.org/bpa/

But Are BPAs really harmful?

  • The Environmental Working Group (EWG) asserts that BPA can seep into food and drinks from containers, and into your body when you handle products made with BPA. “This is well researched and widely acknowledged” They say that even low levels of BPA in the body has been linked to fertility issues, diabetes, obesity, early puberty, behavioural changes in children and breast and reproductive system cancer.
  • The American Chemistry Council contends that BPA poses no threat to human health. The American Chemistry Council represents plastics manufacturers. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bpa/AN01955
  • The US  Dept of Health and Human Services has “some concern’ about the health effects of BPA on the brain, behaviour and prostate glands of fetuses, infants and children. “ Some concern” is the middle of its five point scale which ranges from serious to negligible.
  • The US FDA is taking steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply by finding alternatives to BPA in food containers, but is it enough to limit our exposure to BPA containing products?

But I Use BPA-Free Plastic…….so I’m right, right?

 Research shows that BPA –free plastics also release chemicals which mimic oestrogen, ie they have Oestrogen Activity (EA)

In a 2011 study, more than 500 BPA-free consumer products were tested for chemicals similar to BPA.  92 percent of the products released potentially hazardous compounds after undergoing wear and tear, such as through dishwashing, microwaving, or exposure to sunlight.

The research reports that many BPA-free products, from baby bottles to plastic food wrap, had more oestrogen activity – which is linked to birth defects, cancers, and other health issues – than those products containing BPA.

“We found that exposure to one or more common-use stresses often increases the leaching of chemicals having EA. In fact, our data suggest that almost all commercially available plastic items would leach detectable amounts of chemicals having EA once such items are exposed to boiling water, sunlight (UV), and/or microwaving. Our findings are consistent with recently published reports that PET products release chemicals having EA (Wagner and Oehlmann 2009) and that different PET products leach different amounts of EA”. Chun Z. Yang,1Stuart I. Yaniger,2V. Craig Jordan,3Daniel J. Klein,2 and George D. Bittne

Recent studies on chemicals having EA show these chemicals produce changes in various cells, organs and behaviours, and that chemicals having EA produce measurable changes in the health of human populations. Chemicals having EA have also been shown to change the structure and function of many human cell types, often at very low doses.  (Yang et al)

 How to Limit Your Exposure to BPAs and Other Similar Chemicals

  • Use BPA free products Not necessarily as easy as it sounds! Most aluminium cans or bottles have linings that contain BPA. Steel bottles or cans do not. In reality, this means reducing your use of canned foods, as most of our foods come in aluminium cans. Look for cans labelled BPA free-good luck!
  • Polycarbonate plastic is generally hard, clear and lightweight. Plastics with recycling symbols should have a number in the middle of the symbol. Those with the number 7 are usually made from polyarbonates. Check the recycling symbol, and avoid food storage containers with the number 7. This will steer you away from BPA containing plastic, but not necessarily plastic which contains other chemicals which can leach into the food inside.
  • Stay away from receipts and other carbonless paper which often contain BPA. If you handle large numbers of receipts, wash your hands or wear gloves
  • Do not microwave any plastic containers, even if they are BPA free. Many plastic containers do have the words “microwave safe” printed on them, but that just means that the container won’t get wrecked in the microwave. It doesn’t take into account whether or not it’s safe for humans to continue using them once the harmful chemicals in the plastic have been liberated.
  • Similarly, do not leave plastics out in the sunlight, or in your car where they  can heat up.
  • Avoid washing plastics in your dishwasher where the material can be heated to high temperatures and be exposed to harsh detergents.
  • Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids instead of plastic containers.

 A look on the bright side.

Yang et al, in their 2011 study concluded that plastics having comparable physical properties to the plastics we already use, but that do not release chemicals having detectable EA could be produced at a minimal additional cost. Now we just need to convince the food manufacturers!