I apologise for the frankly appalling pun. And I am equally horrified that I haven’t posted here for about a month. I will definitely be trying to do better next year.

I came here chiefly because a piece of news has caught my eye, and it’s to do with this stuff:

Yep. ROQUEFORT. The smelly blue stuff that has fuelled the French fighting instinct for centuries (erm, probably. In any case, all Anglo-French battles ended with us bringing out the Cheddar in response, them saying “okay, you win” and shuffling home again). It’s rumoured that this cheese could help protect against cardiovascular disease and even combat anti-ageing – and thanks to our obsession with food, the British press has already jumped on this story with gay abandon (here are the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Guardian‘s takes on it just for kicks). However, here’s my take on it (which, let’s face it, was probably all you wanted to hear anyway :p ). In short, it got me wondering: how far could this story actually be true?

Here’s the findings in a nutshell: Roquefort contains anti-inflammatory properties that apparently work best in acidic environments – for example, in the stomach, and on the skin surface. For this reason, the Cambridge researchers behind this believe that these anti-inflammatory qualities could assist in crusades such as anti-ageing and cardiovascular disease. The boffins in the white coats have therefore linked these properties with the fact that the French cardiovascular mortality rate is fairly low, and proclaimed that if we were to eat like the French (and, presumably, quaff like the French, seeing as red wine has received similarly favourable reports), we could aspire to similar feats.

I’d need to read the full report and do a little number crunching before I could form a more solid view of it. But it’s my opinion that even if Roquefort does contain the anti-inflammatory properties that the report says it does, and even if these could help stop the hands of time or marginally improve cardiovascular health, instinct tells me that ultimately we could be onto a hiding to nothing here. Why? Here’s why.

I have lived in France for over four years. As a result of my marriage, I have French family. They eat just about everything (although they don’t all like Christmas cake yet; I’m working on that). This includes Roquefort and various other gloriously smelly cheeses, including one of my faves, Epoisses. However, they typically eat what the Brits would consider tiny amounts (NB hubby is an exception to this) – even though the reality is that they probably follow NHS guidelines, which state that a portion of cheese should be no larger than a matchbox.

This means that they probably consume such a small amount of the magical anti-inflammatory properties that it wouldn’t make a difference either way to their overall health condition. There is a myth afloat in Britain that the French live some sort of Bacchic lifestyle, imbibing huge quantities of wine and taking in massive quantities of food at a sitting. This is totally untrue. Unfortunately we Brits have taken this myth to our hearts, and the result? Binge drinking and obesity. Chances are that impressionable Brits reading the national press links above will take this on board equally enthusiastically, and thus consume enough cheese to have them end up in casualty.

This is not to say, however, that food can never be medicinal. Following on from this, I thought I’d look into a few of my faves:

  • CITRUS FRUITS. The human body can’t produce its own vitamin C, so you have to do the work yourself, putting in high-vitamin foods of your choice. Adults need between 75mg and 90mg of this vital vitamin every day, with breastfeeding women needing 120mg. The average orange contains 70mg, while papaya, blackcurrant, grapefruit, stawberry and lemon all score highly too.
  • GINGER. Sadly most ginger biscuits don’t have medicinal properties. However, stem ginger does – it can be consumed in candied form or steeped in water to make a tea, as well as being grated straight into food. As well as tasting lovely, it helps to ease muscle pain and nausea.
  • HONEY. Whether you spread it onto toast or stir it into your tea, honey is helpful due to its antiseptic and antibacterial qualities. Use it to treat sore throats, coughs, colds, and even burns. Can even be used as part of a home-made face mask thanks to its anti-microbial and humectant properties.
  • DARK CHOCOLATE. I love chocolate and don’t need any excuse to eat it. However, some studies may convince those who need a little more persuasion, although the results are mixed. Some research shows that dark chocolate could lower blood pressure, fight ageing, and protect against anaemia and cardiovascular ailments due to the vitamins, flavanols and antioxidants it contains.
  • RED WINE. Like dark chocolate, red wine contains several busters of bad stuff, including polyphenols (which combat tissue damage and are anti-ageing), antioxidants (which can help prevent colds), and resveratrol (which can inhibit harmful cell growth). However, grapes themselves will probably do the same thing, which is what’s behind the philosophy of beauty brand Caudalie.

All of this, though, probably comes down to the same thing: you probably shouldn’t be smearing Roquefort on your face as part of your latest beauty experiment, and if you just eat a balanced diet (a little of what you fancy, when you fancy it, ensuring you try everything at least once), you’ll hopefully turn out fine. Now, where’s that big bag of Valrhona chocolate I bought the other day…?

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