Cocoa's Cognitive Benefits

August 23, 2012

Cocoa is a superfood and has a variety of benefits. Find out the latest here - there is a variety of research that demonstrates cocoa's many health benefits

Eating chocolate may help keep us sharp into old age, according to a study, published in the journal Hypertension.
The study tested the hypothesis that dietary flavanols (from chocolate) might improve cognitive function in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI can include difficulty with memory, language, thinking, or judgment.

Researchers found that those who consumed high or moderate levels of cocoa flavanols for 2 months had significant improvements on certain cognitive assessment tests, as well as a decrease in insulin resistance, which helps regulate blood sugar, as well as improvements in blood pressure, compared with those who consumed only small amounts. Keep in mind that the results may not apply to everyone with MCI.

Flavanols are a type of flavonoid, the phytochemical associated with the many health benefits of cocoa. Flavonoids are also found in many richly pigmented fruits and vegetables and studies show that flavonoids also have anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer activity, and more.

Another recent meta-analysis, published in The Cochrane Library, looked at data from 20 studies published during the past decade, and found that people who ate flavanol-rich cocoa products every day for a few weeks saw their blood pressure drop by about two or three points, which, in combination with an overall healthy diet and lifestyle could make a healthy change.

There is a variety of research that demonstrates cocoa's many health benefits but it’s important to understand that not all chocolate products are created equal. While all chocolate contains some flavonoids, it is important to choose minimally processed dark chocolate with a cacao content upwards of 70 percent. The higher the cocoa percentage, the more flavanols and antioxidants it contains. You can also purchase cacao or cocoa powder that can be used in a variety of ways.

Add cocoa powder to a smoothie with bananas, blueberries, and plain yogurt. Or another fruit and veggie smoothie you enjoy.

Cocoa can be added to your morning oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese.

Make a chocolate pudding with mashed banana, avocado, cocoa powder and either dates or stevia.
Think chicken with mole sauce; the traditional Mexican dish that includes a sauce made with cocoa powder.