How Chocolate Can Be Even Better for The Brain Than Exercise
This is the news that every chocoholic hoped they would read one day – chocolate has the ability to improve your health. More precisely, chocolate is beneficial for your brain function according to findings of the recent study.
Chocolate’s effect on brain health
The group of scientists from Columbia University and New York University conducted a study which included volunteers aged between 50 and 69. Participants of the study received a specially formulated drink containing flavanols extracted from cocoa powder.
The study lasted for three months and during the research period; participants were divided into two groups. One group received a small dosage of flavanols while the second group received half a large dose.
After the completion of the research period, scientists discovered that group which received a large dose of flavanols also had higher memory function scores than the group who received small dosage. The findings were published in Nature Neuroscience.
Moreover, the benefits of chocolate for the brain were greater than effects of physical activity. Author of the study, Gary L. Wenk revealed for Oxford University Press that, in reality, people would have to eat large quantities of chocolate to consume a number of flavonols participants received in the study in order to reap all the brain-healthy benefits.
For example, participants in the study received a specially prepared commercial product, which contained about one gram of flavonols every day for 3 months. 100 grams of cocoa powder contains about 100 milligrams of flavonols. This means that you would need to eat about 1 kilogram of pure unrefined cocoa powder or 44 pounds of chocolate candy a day.
However, this is not the first time chocolate consumption was associated with the brain.
Chocolate and brain benefits
- Chocolate makes you happy – this is not only related to the fact that you feel happy to indulge your craving. Dark chocolate is rich in endorphins which are, actually, feel-good chemicals. These endorphins bind with opiate receptors in the brain leading to feelings of euphoria. They are also known for reducing stress and pain.
- Chocolate improves your blood flow to the brain – compounds found in dark chocolate boost attention span, memory, reaction time, and problem-solving skills by increasing blood flow to the brain. Moreover, flavonoids from chocolate improve blood flow in young and old alike. For example, a study conducted at Harvard Medical School discovered that drinking two cups of hot chocolate increased blood flow to the brain for 2-3 hours. Increased blood flow is beneficial for short-term memory, cognitive abilities, and prevents mental decline.
- Chocolate protects our brain – your brain uses 20% of body’s total intake of oxygen, which makes it prone to free radical damage. Free radicals attack healthy cells in our body and cause various diseases. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants that neutralize free radical damage and prevent premature brain cell aging.
- Chocolate improves learning, focus and memory – flavonoids from cocoa penetrate and accumulate in the brain regions associated with learning, memory, and focus, particularly in the hippocampus.
- Chocolate relieves stress – chocolate is rich in magnesium which is known as one of the best stress relievers. Moreover, it is widely believed that magnesium is the reason we sometimes crave chocolate, which explains why you feel like eating chocolate when you are stressed out. Additionally, chocolate is the only source of theobromine. This compound is related to caffeine, but it is a relaxant, not a stimulant.
- Chocolate reduces food cravings – what most people don’t know is that world’s most craved food can, actually, reduce food cravings. Before we continue, you should bear in mind that consumption of cheap and mass-produced chocolate does not reduce but fuels cravings. We are talking about dark chocolate (with at least 60 – 70% of cocoa) which has been shown to reduce cravings for junk food of all types e.g. sweet, fatty, and salty. Dark chocolate can help you eat less, make healthier diet for weight loss. It seems that sensory experience that people get when eating dark chocolate is the reason of this satiety and reducing cravings. For example, when scientists put ingredients from dark chocolate into a pill, it did not have same effects.
Why is dark chocolate more beneficial than milk chocolate?
Interestingly, all health benefits associated with chocolate (consumption of dark chocolate can even reduce the risk of heart disease, etc.) are based on dark chocolate. It is because dark chocolate contains more flavonoids, antioxidants, and less sugar and other ingredients that could deteriorate your health.
TIP: if you do not like the taste of dark chocolate then you can consume cacao nibs and cocoa powder. They are less processed than dark chocolate, and you can use them in several different ways. For example, cocoa powder can be added to smoothies, sprinkled on desserts, you can make everyone’s favorite hot chocolate, etc.
Although you’d need to consume large quantities a day to receive all benefits from this study, regular consumption of dark chocolate or cocoa is beneficial for your brain, and heart as well. Naturally, you should still strive to eat 2 to 3 cubes a day and keep chocolate consumption in moderate level. However, physical activity is still important for improving your overall health.
Also Watch: Top 4 Healthy Foods to Boost Your Brainpower
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Adonia Dennis (@adoniadennis), by profession a Health, Beauty and Skin Care adviser. She provides solutions related to beauty and skin care problems such as skin hyperpigmentation, aging, dry skin, etc. She is an independent researcher who researches for all type of skin related issues. She also provides solution related to the health problems. She is a passionate blogger who loves to write and share her views on health, fitness and diet. To know more about Adonia, follow her on Facebook, Google +, and Pinterest.