Fudge. Brownies. Chocolate bars. Drool. We love them all. And if you’re a chocolate lover like us, have we got some good news for you.
You probably already know that dark chocolate have been proven in the past to be good for your heart and overall cardiovascular health, which is great. And now research is saying it’s also good for another part of our bodies—our brains!
A new study published in Frontiers in Nutrition by researchers at the University of L’Aquila found that consumption of cocoa-flavored treats—regular consumption to be exact, like eating it every single day—can improve certain aspects of brain function, specifically attention, processing speed, working memory and verbal fluency.
But perhaps the most unexpected (yet awesome) news is that the study found chocolate helped older adults who are at risk for memory decline or other mild cognitive impairments.
“Regular intake of cocoa and chocolate could indeed provide beneficial effects on cognitive functioning over time,” said review authors Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara.”This result suggests the potential of cocoa flavanols to protect cognition in vulnerable populations over time by improving cognitive performance.
The reason for this benefit? It’s due to the cocoa flavanols in chocolate and how it affects a vital part of the brain. “If you look at the underlying mechanism, the cocoa flavanols have beneficial effects for cardiovascular health and can increase cerebral blood volume in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus,” Socci explains. “This structure is particularly affected by aging and therefore the potential source of age-related memory decline in humans.”
There were a few other benefits in study too—it also found that eating cocoa helped young and healthy adults perform better on difficult cognitive tests.
This is all some pretty amazing news, but it makes us wonder: Even though chocolate does have a good reps sometimes (heart health, brain health), it also gets a bad rep if you eat too much of it. So how much chocolate and cocoa is actually smart to incorporate into our daily diets?
“There are potential side effects of eating cocoa and chocolate,” Socci says. “Those are generally linked to the caloric value of chocolate, some inherent chemical compounds of the cocoa plant such as caffeine and theobromine, and a variety of additives we add to chocolate such as sugar or milk.”
That means it’s not necessarily about how much you add to your diet, it’s about trying to limit chocolate with lots of added sugar and other added ingredients—the less the better. In addition, keep an eye out for dark chocolate, which has more health benefits and is more likely to contain less additives in it. That’s the stuff to go for.
Don’t be afraid to treat yourself to a piece of chocolate—even if it’s every day! And hey, if you have a test or big assignment at work coming up that you really need to use your brain for, maybe sneaking a piece of dark chocolate wouldn’t hurt.
Are you a chocolate fan? Did you know chocolate had these brain-boosting benefits?