Imagine this: You’re browsing the internet and you come across an article saying that chocolate, your favorite sweet treat, is actually good for you. Is this information just another case of junk science that’s too good to be true? Not quite: This claim is based on science that says a small amount of chocolate each day may help prevent cognitive decline. A recent review article discussed on Martha Stewart may be the answer to all of your chocolate dreams.
The Italian review paper concluded that chocolate consumption is linked to improved memory and visual information processing. Furthermore, after a night with minimal sleep, cocoa consumption has been associated with lower levels of cognitive impairment, especially in women.
Regarding older adults facing memory decline, it can “effectively” improve their attention, memory and processing speed. The paper also reports that cocoa can support cardiovascular health and healthy aging. Most of these benefits are attributed to the cocoa flavanols present in chocolate.
The authors of this article state that the cognitive benefits of cocoa flavanols come predominantly from their role in “boosting cerebral blood volume in the dentate gyrus.” Dentate gyrus? In simpler terms, that’s the part of the brain associated with memories, so that’s where improved cognition comes into play.
Still, research into chocolate’s influence on cognition is in its early stages. The authors of this paper suggest that future research into the matter focus on the immediate and long-term effects of cocoa. Consequently, this new review is not a free pass to stock up on all of our favorite chocolate candies and indulge in as many of them as we want. Instead, when consuming chocolate or other treats, keep moderation in mind.
The IFIC Foundation weighed in on the study of every chocolate lover’s dreams. Megan Meyer, PhD, director of science communications at the IFIC Foundation, says that practicing healthy indulgence means being mindful of the type of chocolate you choose to eat. She also shares a tip that the darker the chocolate you consume, the better, as well as how much of it you choose to consume.
Meyer says that portion control and moderation are key aspects of chocolate consumption. She suggests buying chocolate in pre-portioned sizes or packaging, making portion control and moderation easier. That way, you know that a square of chocolate, for example, will have a set amount of calories and sugar.
It is also essential to rid yourself of any “chocolate-induced guilt.” Meyer explains that if you are practicing a healthy eating pattern, then you should not associate guilt with any food, including chocolate. Moderation is key for consuming high-calorie foods. And when you want to splurge, look for treats like dark chocolate that include health benefits.
If you want to incorporate dark chocolate into your current healthy eating pattern, eating a bar of it isn’t your only option. Dark chocolate can be tasty as part of a trail mix snack, or you can sprinkle chocolate shavings on your breakfast oatmeal or yogurt for added flavor.
Only research and time will tell if our dreams of chocolate being both tasty and healthy will come true—but, for now, enjoy your chocolate treats guilt-free and healthily with the knowledge that chocolate may provide you with some added health benefits.
This blog was written by Morgan Manghera.