Among the many amazing health benefits that chocolate has been found to give—lowered risk of heart disease, reduced blood pressure, and even better athletic performance—the most intriguing is the reams of research that demonstrate the dark treat can help improve brain functioning. The research found that the flavanols in chocolate can boost blood flow to the brain, increasing cognition. A new review just out in the journal Frontiers has established that chocolate can indeed be a potent brain tonic.
The analysis revealed that the majority of studies done on chocolate and the brain have shown that it can enhance memory, improve visual information processing, and increase cognition, but they are mostly focused on older people.
“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,” said study authors Michele Ferrara, Ph.D., and Valentina Socci, a Ph.D. student from the University of L’Aquila in Italy. This structure is particularly affected by aging, and therefore the potential source of age-related memory decline in humans.”
Even though most of the benefit comes from research on the elderly, the fact that chocolate, and especially dark chocolate, are packed full of antioxidant plant compounds like flavanols shows that the special treat is still something you should make a part of your diet every day, but just make sure it’s a few squares of at least 70% cocoa chocolate and not a whole bar, or a Snickers. Saith the researchers: “Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavanols. So we always eat some dark chocolate. Every day.”