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Think About Chocolate
Think About Chocolate
This little treat is filled with healthy compounds.

Last summer,  I recommended eating more berries in a blogpost since they contain protective antioxidants and flavonoids that can help improve brain function and memory. That’s still sound advice. But did you know that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains some of those same healthy compounds? Chocolate may also improve blood flow to the brain and reduce inflammation!

Flavanols, a type of flavonoid, are abundant in dark chocolate. They help to decrease inflammation, and since they are powerful antioxidants, they protect cells from oxidative damage. According to Dr. Miguel Alonso-Alonso, a neuroscientist at Beth Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, flavanols facilitate brain cell connections and survival and protect brain cells from toxins or the negative effects of inflammation.

Eating dark chocolate can also improve mood by stimulating the production of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in the brain. Some recent studies have shown that dark chocolate can benefit brain health and reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2015 concluded that cocoa extract may help prevent age-related cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

Dark chocolate that contains 70 percent or greater cacao has the highest amount of these beneficial compounds. Milk chocolate and white chocolate do not contain as many flavanols, contain more fat and sugar, and are not as nutritious. A moderate serving of dark chocolate is about ½-1 oz, several times per week to once each day, to help boost your brain health. The research is ongoing, but it’s very encouraging that a delicious food that is loved by so many not only tastes good but is good for you.

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Kirsten Romero
Kirsten Romero
Kirsten Romero, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian with the wellness program at Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia.
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