Watch us on the Afternoon Express team with Lindt where we answer the infamous question, "Is chocolate bad/good for you?"
It’s Women’s Day this weekend and it’s likely that a lot of ladies will be receiving some delicious chocolate from their significant others. With diets like the Banting Diet, sweet things such as chocolate sometimes get a bad rep.
However, before you start feeling guilty for that dark chocolate you’re about to indulge in this weekend, we have some good news for you. Chocolate has lots of benefits, particularly from a neuroscience perspective.
Chocolate Has Antioxidants That Protect Brain Cells
Chocolate is rich in antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory agents. These help protect brain cells by minimising free radical damage and prevent premature brain cell ageing. Chocolate also contains flavanols, which promote neurogenesis, neuronal function, and brain connectivity. Improved brain connectivity is important for creativity.
Chocolate Helps Enhance Memory
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is a good source of flavonoids (flavanols). Studies have shown that flavanoids penetrate & accumulate in the hippocampus – a brain structure integral to learning and memory. This helps improve the brain tissue in this region, which can help with memory and learning capabilities. In addition to this, flavonoid extracts have also been shown to delay the outset of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and memory loss.
Chocolate Helps Increase Alertness and Cognition
Cocoa also contains caffeine, which is absorbed directly into the brain once consumed. Caffeine, as you would probably know already, helps increase alertness and cognitive ability. We all remember having a good cup of coffee before taking on a mentally demanding task. Maybe doubling that up with a bit of dark chocolate is a good idea too. Additionally, a study conducted by researchers also found that chocolate that is high in flavanols improved the efficiency of cognitive processing. The improved efficiency in processing was found to be associated with spatial working memory in particular.
Chocolate Makes you Happy
Chocolate is also comprised of an amino acid from which dopamine is derived. Dopamine is a compound that is associated with reward and learning. That’s just one of the reasons why you feel so good after indulging in some chocolate. Furthermore, when you’re happy you’re in a state of cognitive ease, which can help make you more creative. This also means that the next time you need to ask someone something and want a favourable reply, make sure you do it after you’ve given them some chocolate. So, enjoy that chocolate this weekend, along with all the benefits it provides.
It’s important to note that the better the quality of chocolate, and the higher the cocoa content (i.e. darker chocolate), the more benefit you’re going to likely derive from it. As with most things, moderation is key.