If you have a chocolate habit that you’re struggling to break free from, the latest research may bring some joy. According to scientists in Italy, a daily dose of dark chocolate is good for your brain. Even better still, it’ll offset some of the cognitive declines that come with aging. Before you dive into your stash, though, you need to learn more about how this works and the ways you can take advantage of it.
How does dark chocolate promote better brain function?
Dark chocolate contains cocoa flavanols. Overall, cocoa flavanols reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain, and prevent blood clots. In addition to this, they reduce cellular damage. Studies investigating how animals respond to cocoa flavanols reveal that they experience less brain inflammation and they’re not as vulnerable to toxins that harm the Central Nervous System (CNS).
The study in question from the University of L’Aquila in Italy found that eating dark chocolate encourages better blood flow in the dentate gyrus. This is an area of the hippocampus that controls how you respond to the world around you. Additionally, it plays a strong role in short-term memory formation. The dentate gyrus is especially susceptible to brain damage as you age. This is possibly due to a reduction in neurogenesis as you get older. If eating dark chocolate each day prevents this from happening, you may be able to reduce some of the cognitive declines that accompany ageing.
Does this research apply to all types of chocolate?
Unfortunately, no. The types of chocolate that taste sweet don’t contain the same amount of cocoa as dark chocolate. This means that you can’t eat a daily dose of milk and white chocolate and expect to see the same benefits.
Although other types of chocolate do contain cocoa, they’re also high in sugar and fat. As such, when you begin adding them to your daily diet, you’ll also increase your risk of obesity. Therefore, if you want to encounter the benefits of cocoa flavonols, eat a small amount of dark chocolate each day. The higher the cocoa content, the better. Most dark chocolate packets will state their cocoa content on the front.
What else can you do to protect your brain health?
In addition to eating a small amount of dark chocolate each day, you can take the following steps to protect your brain health:
- Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by quitting smoking and lowering your alcohol intake.
- Avoid using medications unnecessarily, including over-the-counter pain relief.
- Don’t eat a high-sugar diet.
- Try to lower your stress levels as you grow older.
- Get an adequate amount of sleep each night.
- Each a diet that’s rich in antioxidants.
If you can follow all the lifestyle tips above, you probably deserve a little chocolate each day as a celebratory treat.