Whether it’s a cheeky Lunch Bar during your midday break or a slab of 90% after dinner, there’s no denying that chocolate is one of the country’s favourite sweet treats. However, most diets caution against the consumption of this more-ish snack, recommending fruit, nuts and seeds in their stead. Not only is this advice boring, but it could also rob you of some serious health benefits; namely, a sweet morsel that could have a massive impact on your memory.
Cocoa Flavanols and Your Brain
A new study published in the journal PNAS Neuroscience has discovered that a daily dose of flavanols could hit the brakes on age-related mental decline. But what are flavanols? Simply put, they’re antioxidant compounds you’ll find in anything from tea to berries to, yes, cocoa. In the research, those who took daily supplements of flavanols derived from cocoa managed to ramp up their performance in age-targeted word-recall tests.
Does that mean you should start chowing on chocolates? Well, not exactly. The chocolates you’ll find on our shelves tend to be low on these miracle-working flavanoids, so even scoffing down a few bars will probably leave you falling short of hitting your daily target of around 500mg. (Not to mention you’ll be tacking on tons of unnecessary calories.) Your best strategy is to diversify your intake, opting for a range of different flavanol-containing foods and beverages.
For instance, you could swap out your morning brew for a cup of green tea which is rich in the stuff, and snack on berries, too. Chocolate isn’t off the menu either, but you should opt for the darkest possible slab (think: 70% cocoa or above.)
The Other Health Benefits of Eating Cocoa
These compounds aren’t just good for ramping up your memory. Plenty of research has linked flavanols to a host of other benefits. For example, one study found that those who took a daily dose of this compound were able to improve their cognitive function. Further research suggests that cocoa-derived flavanols could even improve your decision-making.
Your heart could benefit from upping your intake of dark chocolate, too. Research has found that antioxidants contained in these sweet treats might help lower your blood pressure, slashing the risk of clotting and potentially helping you avoid heart disease or strokes. Factor in that cocoa consumption has been associated with reduced stress, and you’ve got access to a snack that does double duty shielding your mind and heart.
Other studies on the benefits of cocoa have found that it could also help you combat diabetes. While you shouldn’t be making dark chocolate a permanent side dish on your menu, the occasional slab could do more than just satisfy your tastebuds.