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The surprising ways chocolate affects your brain

The surprising ways chocolate affects your brain

Once considered an indulgent treat, recent research shows there may be more to chocolate than its delicious taste. Scientists are discovering some surprising benefits of chocolate for boosting brain functions, improving moods and reducing the risk of neurological diseases.

The surprising ways chocolate affects your brain

Boosts cognitive performance

“Eating chocolate can be protective for your brain and enhance your brain’s plasticity, the lifelong ability to change and adapt,” says Dr. Krystal L. Culler, director and founder of Your Brain Health Matters.

A 2018 study published in PubMed monitored the effects of chocolate on brain waves. Participants were given dark chocolate to eat for eight days, analysing the before and after effects on the brain.

It found that eating dark chocolate increased the alpha and beta brain waves of participants. The alpha brain waves are produced when you’re feeling calm and relaxed, while beta brain waves signify alertness and focus.

Helps release endorphins

We all know a delicious piece of chocolate can make you happy. Well, it turns out, this mood-boosting benefit is backed by science.

“Chocolate boosts the production of endorphins, better known as the ‘feel-good’ chemical of your brain,” says Culler.

Research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found eating chocolate linked to an increase in self-reported feelings of relaxation, focus, and general contentedness.

May reduce risk of dementia

Research around age-related diseases, such as dementia, has recently looked at the role of chocolate in preventing cognitive issues.

“Chocolate is very appealing in those prone to cognitive decline like individuals with or at risk of Alzheimer’s disease because the flavonols — antioxidants found in certain plants — in cocoa stimulate new brain cell growth and prevent existing brain cell death,” says Dr. Shaheen Lakhan, neurologist and head of R&D at The Learning Corp.

What kind of chocolate should you eat?

If you want to eat chocolate for its health benefits, it’s important to look out for the right ingredients. Sugary, milk chocolate is not recommended as a healthy choice.

Key things to look out for:

  • Dark (85% or higher cocoa)
  • Unsweetened
  • Organic
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