Listen up, chocolate lovers. You’re in for a real treat. According to a 2017 study in Frontiers in Nutrition, chocolate might help out your brain. This is big news for age-related cognitive decline. As humans live longer, we’re faced with a greater risk of neurocognitive diseases. The brain’s neurons, or nerve cells, lose function and die over time. The result? Reduced mental function and, sometimes, dementia.
Regardless of age, poor cognition can interfere with independence. Even mild cognitive impairment causes memory problems like losing things and forgetting appointments.1 These issues only worsen as time goes by.2 This is why eating for brain health is so important! Luckily, delicious chocolate might be the new brain food.
What Makes Chocolate Healthy?
The power of chocolate is in its antioxidative flavonoids. These polyphenols, or plant chemicals, are thought to protect and regulate the brain. The cocoa bean is a rich source of these flavonoids, specifically epicatechin and catechin.
It also contains methylxanthine caffeine and theobromine,
How Does Chocolate Help Brain Function?
In the brain, flavonoids protect weak neurons. They also improve neuron function, promote regeneration, and prolong survival. Basically, flavonoids are nerve cells’ biggest supporters.
Flavonoids also interact with proteins that help neurons live. This combats any injury from neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Plus, flavonoids can cross the blood-brain barrier in the areas in charge of learning memory. Examples include the hippocampus, cerebellum, and striatum.
These amazing compounds also help out the heart. Flavonoids stimulate healthy blood flow, making sure your brain gets enough oxygen.4
Can Chocolate Help Short-Term Brain Function?
Here’s more good news. You don’t need to wait years – or until the brain fails – to enjoy the perks of chocolate. Cocoa may have immediate effects on the
Healthy Ways To Eat Chocolate
As a sweet treat, chocolate gets a bad reputation. Yet, it’s possible to enjoy chocolate in a healthy way. Reach for organic chocolate with no added sugar.
Start your morning with a decadent oatmeal. Mix in cocoa powder, or top off with chocolate chips. Add berries for even more flavor.
In the microwave, melt 1 cup of chocolate chips in 30-second intervals. Give it a good stir each time. Blend 12 ounces of silken tofu, the melted chocolate, and ½ cup warm non-dairy milk. Store in the refrigerator until cooled.
4. Banana Pancakes
For a protein-packed flourless cake, make banana pancakes. Use a blender to combine two eggs and a banana. Add a heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder and cook pancakes as usual.
5. Hot Chocolate
Chocolate is just one way to protect your brain. A well-rounded diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain is also vital. Practice healthy habits like limiting alcohol, avoiding cigarettes, and exercising regularly.
|↑1||Mild Cognitive Impairment. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑2||Neurodegenerative Diseases. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.|
|↑3||Martínez-Pinilla, Eva, Ainhoa Oñatibia-Astibia, and Rafael Franco. “The relevance of theobromine for the beneficial effects of cocoa consumption.” Frontiers in pharmacology 6 (2015).|
|↑4||Nehlig, Astrid. “The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance.” British journal of clinical pharmacology 75, no. 3 (2013): 716-727.|
|↑5||Socci, Valentina, Daniela Tempesta, Giovambattista Desideri, Luigi De Gennaro, and Michele Ferrara. “Enhancing Human Cognition with Cocoa Flavonoids.” Frontiers in Nutrition 4 (2017).|