Dark Chocolate, the Decadent Treat that can Make You Smarter

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If you’re like me, the mere mention of dark chocolate is enough to make your mouth water. With a sweet, smooth flavor that pairs well with virtually any desert dish, chocolate may just rein supreme in the world of treats. Milk chocolate certainly has its merit, but its purity (and positive health impact!) is greatly diluted by the sugar, cream and milk solids commonly added to the chocolate to give it a milder, sweeter flavor. If you want to partake of a purer cocoa with a serious kick of good health and smarts, along with some extra decadence, opt for the richer choice of dark chocolate. You’ve likely heard that dark chocolate is good for your heart. What you may not know is that this delicious treat is also good for your brain.

Dark chocolate’s health benefits comes mostly from its main ingredient: the cocoa bean. This amazing bean is packed with antioxidants, which fight free radicals that can harm cells and have a serious negative impact on your health. Cocoa beans are rich in a particular type of antioxidant known as flavonoids. Flavonoids help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and have been linked to greater vascular health and less overall risk of cardiovascular disease. So flavonoids positively impact your heart health. A recent study suggests that flavonoids also have a positive impact on your brain.            

The study on dark chocolate was conducted by the University of Nottingham. Patients consumed a chocolate drink containing the same flavanols found in dark chocolate.  The results? Patients experienced increased blood flow to certain areas of the brain for up to three hours. More blood to the brain means more oxygen to the brain, which heightens cognitive ability.  The study also went on to suggest that these dark chocolate flavanols may improve cognitive function in those with sleep deprivation and fatigue, and they flavanols may enhance brain function in adults over 50 as well.

Dark chocolate has earned its place among the ranks of superfoods for its myriad of health benefits. Indulge in about an ounce daily for a boost of good health and a sweet, satisfying treat. Bear in mind that the higher the cocoa content in your chocolate, the darker the chocolate, and the more flavonoids you can benefit from. Check the ingredients on your dark chocolate product for a high cacao content (at least 60%) with no unneeded-and unhealthy-fillers like hydrogenated oils, to ensure you are getting the most health benefit. The satisfaction of treating yourself to dark chocolate has never been sweeter, for your taste buds, your heart health and your brain power.

References: http://www.medsci.org/press/cocoa.htmlhttp://www.med.umich.edu/umim/food-pyramid/dark_chocolate.htm

Originally posted 2013-10-28 13:02:38.