Many individuals think that chocolate has little to no nutritional value, and is only a delightful candy. However, recent research shows that cacao, the main ingredient in chocolate, contains chemicals called flavanols that, in high doses, reduce age-related memory problems. A dose of 900 mg of cacao-derived flavanols per day can make a 60-year-old individual process memories with the ease of a 30-year-old.
Cacao’s benefits, cognitive and otherwise, are not solely restricted to mature adults. A dose of cacao flavonols stimulate blood flow to the hippocampus, a part of the brain that controls learning and memory. Similarly, it reduces blood pressure and increases circulation via relaxing the blood vessels throughout the body.
With this knowledge in mind, chocolate may seem healthy. However, most chocolate contains high amounts of milk and sugar, along with other additives. If you dearly love chocolate, an ounce per day of 70% dark chocolate should satisfy your craving for chocolate as well as give you a slight mental boost. Better sources of cocoa flavanols include natural cocoa powder or cacao nibs (bits of dry cacao nut, often sold unsweetened at natural food stores). Consuming large amounts of chocolate, dark or milk, puts you at significant risk for weight gain. Healthy alternatives to cacao flavanols, if you cannot access cacao nibs or do not like chocolate, include berries and green or black tea. Enjoy responsibly!