How chocolate helps the brain

I hope you all had an enjoyable break with family and friends. While Easter has come and gone, many of us (including the CLA team!) are still nibbling on leftover Chocolate goodies. So to make us all feel a little bit better about the abundance of chocolate that may have been consumed, this blog looks at the benefits of this delicious sweet.

Even though chocolate has been around for over 2000 years, it is not commonly known that consuming chocolate regularly has been found to help with brain function. That’s right, thanks to cocoa being a rich source of natural neuroprotective compounds, eating chocolate helps your brain – and we are all for it! The useful antioxidant-abundant compounds found in cocoa beans are called cocoa flavanols.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2012 stated that places where chocolate consumption is highest have the most Nobel Prize recipients. Now this could just be a happy coincidence but I for one am glad it’s now a known fact as I feel it puts me in good stead for this auspicious prize.

Another good news point, both short and long-term consumption of dark chocolate may also be helpful for the young and not-as-young….

A 2011 study of young adults found that two hours after consuming dark chocolate, which has a high flavanol content, memory and reaction time were better than those who consumed white chocolate, which has a lower flavanol content.

Another study in 2014 found that among adults aged 50-69, those taking a cocoa supplement with high flavanol content for three months had better performance on tests of memory than those who took supplements with a lower flavanol content.

Now dark chocolate and cocoa aren’t the only foods that contain flavanols. There are many fruits and vegetables which are rich in this antioxidant including apples, broccoli, beans, kale and onions. So, it really comes as no surprise that a healthy diet is typically one that is high in fruits and vegetables and, as a result, high in flavanol content. But it’s good to know this sweet treat every now and then isn’t all bad either.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that many types of chocolate are high in sugar, fats, and calories. So, even if dark chocolate turns out to be good for the brain, it’s unlikely that doctors will recommend a chocolate bar a day. However eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate benefits health in many ways.  In fact, chocolate is now considered an anti-aging, anti-inflammatory “superfood” for the brain and body… That’s what we like to hear! Chocolate has also been shown to enhance your mood, improve depression and anxiety symptoms and help to enhance feelings of calmness and satisfaction.

Just make sure it’s in moderation!

10 fun facts about chocolate

  1. Chocolate comes from a fruit tree; it’s made from a seed
  2. It takes 400 cocoa beans to make one pound of chocolate
  3. Cacao beans were so valuable to early Mesoamericans that they were used as currency
  4. A farmer must wait four to five years for a cacao tree to produce its first beans
  5. Theobroma Cacao is the tree that produces cocoa beans, and it means “food of the gods”
  6. Chocolate has over 600 flavour compounds while red wine has just 200
  7. Chocolate milk is an effective post work-out recovery drink and an average serving has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of decaf coffee
  8. It takes two to four days to make a single-serving chocolate bar
  9. The French celebrate April Fool’s Day with chocolate-shaped fish
  10. White chocolate isn’t real chocolate – to be classified as real chocolate a product has to contain cocoa solids or liquids. White “chocolate” contains cocoa butter instead.

Here at CLA we are all about developing your leaders and helping individuals and organisations reach their full potential. So why not treat your colleagues to some good quality dark chocolate… food for the brain!

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