Chocolate Benefits More Than Mood

May 18, 2011

Chocolate has been a useful commodity for more than 2,000 years. Find out why chocolate may help you see and think clearer!

Chocolate has been an appetizing, popular and useful commodity for more than 2,000 years. From chocolate beverages, sweets, desserts and even entrees, chocolate’s uses truly span the gamut. The tasty treat has long been considered an aphrodisiac and more recently researchers point to its medicinal qualities. There are over 300 chemicals in chocolate, and it seems as if scientists are always discovering new information about how they work in the human body. Mayo clinic studies, for example, have found that chocolate contains stearic acid, a saturated fat that is associated with lower LDL cholesterol levels. Other research has pointed to the antioxidant effects of dark chocolate as well as its mood-elevating properties. In fact, 100 grams of cocoa contains a whopping 13,120 ORAC! Antioxidants have the potential to improve overall health, delay the onset of many age-related diseases, prevent macular eye disease, reduce the risk of some cancers, improve cardiovascular function, and more.

Well, there is even more good news about chocolate for all you chocolate lovers out there. A recent study from researchers based at Reading University’s School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, in the UK, found that consuming cocoa flavanols may improve aspects of eye and brain function. Cocoa contains a high concentration of flavanols, the phytochemical associated with improved vascular function among other things. The study looked at acute intake of cocoa flavanols and then tested the subject’s vision and cognitive performance and found that both were improved.

The study, published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, found improved visual contrast sensitivity and reduced time required to detect motion direction, in those who had consumed the cocoa flavanols. The authors commented that, “intake of CF [cocoa flavanols] has previously been shown to influence hemodynamics, increasing both central and peripheral blood flow” and this was possibly the reason for improved eye and brain functions.

While all chocolate contains flavonoids, it is important to choose dark chocolate with a cacao content upwards of 70 percent. The higher the cocoa percentage, the more flavanols and antioxidants it contains. This should be clearly stated on the package; if not, look for dark chocolate with the content clearly labeled, and few added ingredients.

Another interesting bit about chocolate is that the average cup of hot cocoa contains more flavonoids than other well known antioxidant drinks, like red wine and green tea. Do be mindful of added sugars and other added ingredients in your hot chocolate and chocolate bars.