Can Chocolate Benefit Your Health & Brain?

A special cocoa, designed to retain naturally occurring flavanols, could help maintain healthy brain function. This could eventually lead to new weapons against cognitive decline and dementia.

Several studies have indicated that flavanols could improve blood vessel function.

For example, research has shown that the indigenous population living on islands near Panama, who consume a type of cocoa rich in flavanols on a daily basis, also experience unusually low rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

The relative risk of death from heart disease on the Panama mainland is 1,280 percent higher than on the islands.

These benefits might also extend to the brain, and could have effects on learning and memory. British researchers studied the results on the brains of young women by studying their brains via magnetic resonance imaging while completing a complex task.

Consumption of the special cocoa resulted in regional changes in brain blood flow for as long as three hours, meaning that cocoa flavanols may have potential as a treatment of vascular damage within the brain.

One of these flavanols — epicatechin — is responsible for the vascular benefits the Kuna Indians, mentioned above, experience when they drank certain cocoas. Epicatechin results in improved circulation and higher levels of nitric oxide in the blood.

The beneficial chocolate bioflavanoids are actually in the relatively cacao bean.

Not only can consuming small amounts of this type of chocolate protect your heart, it may also enhance blood flow to your brain and improve your cognitive health as you age.

Before you run to the grocery store in search of the perfect chocolate, however, scientists agree patients receive the most benefits from minimally-processed dark chocolate. Some guidelines to keep in mind about consuming chocolate;

Consume chocolate only in moderation.

Stay with dark chocolate because it has antioxidant properties that protect your body from oxidative stress.

Eat chocolate only if you’re healthy.

From a nutritional perspective, most people know that there are better foods to eat than chocolate, though from a pleasure perspective plenty of people would disagree.
However, many people are reluctant to give up chocolate even though they know it’s not the best food out there, and most people feel they are depriving themselves if they don’t allow themselves a treat every so often.

If You’re Not Healthy, Don’t Eat It
Chocolate, even if it is dark, still contains large quantities of sugar, and eating sugar is one of the most devastating things you can do to your health. If you’re sick, your immune system is working hard to combat your illness, but sugar weakens the immune system. So eating chocolate will only make it harder for your immune system to fight the illness.

If you have a chronic health problem, the most important physical thing you can do for your health is to stop all sugar. If you want to know more about the negative effects of sugar, check out Nancy Appleton’s article, “124 Ways Sugar Can Ruin Your Health.”

Avoid Eating Too Much Chocolate
Even if you’re healthy, you don’t want to eat huge amounts of chocolate. The key is to eat it in moderation (something like once every two weeks) and enjoy it when you eat it. A small bit of chocolate can be very satisfying if you savor each bite, rather than just wolfing it down.

It’s also important to recognize when you eat chocolate. If you are constantly craving sweets, you are likely not eating the correct balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates for your Metabolic Type. If you tend to crave chocolate when you are upset, bored or lonely, then you could benefit from resolving these underlying emotional issues (and we all have them) that are driving you to seek comfort from chocolate.

It’s also possible to be addicted to chocolate. If you have chocolate cravings that are just too strong to pass up, then this likely applies to you.

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