Here’s good news for chocolate lovers: Research is repeatedly showing a link between the smooth, sweet treat and improved brain health.
According to a review of several studies that examined the effects of cocoa and chocolate on cognition suggests that the flavonoids found in chocolate may be powerful agents for better brain health. To conclusively prove this finding, more research is needed- the type of research studies many would happily volunteer for!
What’s the connection?
The cocoa bean is rich in a class of plant nutrients called flavonoids, which help protect us from environmental toxins while also repairing damage. Flavanols, which are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate, also help improve blood flow to the brain and heart.
Preliminary research shows improvements in cognitive function, attention, mental processing speed and working memory when people are given doses of flavonoids. These plant nutrients also have been shown to possibly slow cognitive decline and help prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases by counteracting the nerve cell injuries underlying these diseases.
What type of chocolate and how much?
When cocoa is processed into candy and other products, it goes through several steps to reduce its naturally pungent taste. The more chocolate is processed, though, the more flavanols are lost. Adding sugar also diminishes the nutritional value.
Your best bet for the most benefits is unsweetened cocoa powder or dark chocolate with at least 72 percent cocoa.
It’s healthy to enjoy moderate portions of dark chocolate (e.g., 1 ounce) a few times per week. You can also get a healthy dose of flavonoids from other foods such as apples, red wine, tea, onions and cranberries. Try our Dark Chocolate Minty-Mousse recipe tonight.
For more information on the brain-health benefits of chocolate and other foods, visit healthybrains.org/pillar-nutrition.