Most people would like to keep their minds sharp, fearing age related decline in cognition and memory in their later years. Studies suggest that consuming some cocoa or chocolate every day helps keep memories from slipping away. Such research particularly affirms the cravings of chocolate lovers. Of course, the type of chocolate makes a difference: dark chocolate that contains 50-90% cocoa solids. Apparently, it’s all about the flavanols in the cacao beans used to make cocoa powder and chocolate.
The Far-Reaching Effects of Cocoa Flavanols
Plant-based food contains a wide variety of phytonutrients called flavonoids. Cacao beans, which are seeds of the cocoa tree, happen to be a great source of the type of flavonoids classified as flavanols. In fact, flavanols are the primary flavonoids found in the cacao bean, making cocoa powder and chocolate a rich source of these phytonutrients.
Cocoa flavanols are associated with a number of health benefits. Studies have shown that the Kuna Indians who remain in their local island habitat in Panama experience good health and live longer compared to those who move to urban areas. The islanders have much healthier diets, and every day they drink large amounts of flavanol-rich cocoa made from locally grown trees.
A study published in July 2020 in the British Medical Journal examined the benefits of nutritional supplements for undernourished, young children in West Africa. Cocoa was one of the foods used in this research. The results included improved cognitive function for these young minds.
Improving, maintaining and enhancing cognitive function is a desirable aim for all human beings. Cocoa may be a nutritional step in this desirable direction as suggested by a collation of studies published in the Frontiers in Nutrition journal. One of the article’s conclusions is “. . . evidence accumulated so far suggests that cocoa flavanols administration can be effective at sustaining cognitive performance, leading to improvements in measures of general cognition, attention, processing speed and memory.”
Even with all of the cocoa studies that have been conducted, research on its benefits for the brain remains at a preliminary stage. Who knows what the future will further reveal about brain boosting cocoa?
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