There is a lot of buzz in the media these days about the flavonols in chocolate and their benefits in reversing age related memory loss. What does this mean and how does it work?
The recent buzz has been caused by a study that showed an improvement to the function of an area of the brain called the dentate gyrus. The function of this part of the brain changes with age. In the study it was found that the flavonols (antioxidants) in a cocoa drink improved the functioning of this area of the brain. The participants also scored higher on memory tests. For more information on the study see Medical News Today.
Sadly I have recently come across a number of articles on the health benefits of chocolate that leave out one vital piece of information. If you process chocolate or add dairy to it you remove the health benefits. This was made clear in the study. So running out to the store to stock up on chocolate will not benefit any part of you except maybe your tastebuds.
Flavonols are antioxidants found in vegetables and fruits. They include Quercetin, Kaempferol and Myricetin. Antioxidants are substances that inhibit and reduce cell damage by free radical oxygen molecules. Free radicals are the byproducts of oxygen use in the body. Unfortunately these molecules will combine with healthy cells and damage them. This in turn can cause disease. For a full explanation see Webmd.
The amount of flavonols varies constantly depending on geographical growing area, light, ripeness, processing and other factors. The bottom line is high flavonol content means higher antioxidant content.
The antioxidants in cacao beans remove free radicals allowing for regeneration of healthy cells and less destruction of existing cells. This means that memory improvement comes from healthier brain cells.
Cacao is also good for
- Heart disease
Enjoying the Health Benefits of Chocolate
Since processing or adding dairy to chocolate removes the health benefits, here are some tasty ways to get your daily dose.
1 head Romaine or Iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup cacao nibs
1 cup Mandarin orange sections
Orange flavoured salad dressing
Tear up lettuce into bite sized pieces. Mix in the walnuts and cacao nibs. Gently add the mandarin orange slices. Add dressing and enjoy. I admit I use a ready made mandarin dressing. There are a number of organic dressing choices. Substitute fresh berries or dried fruit to mix it up.
**Cacao nibs are available at most organic food stores and from Sunfood which has a link at the bottom of my blog page. Although they look like chocolate chips they don’t melt.
A favourite and incredibly easy treat of mine is ready in under 5 minutes. Here is the basic raw food chocolate cookie recipe from my book.
Raw Chocolate Cookies
10 Medjool dates pitted
1 8oz pkg raw walnuts or almonds
2 Tbsp unrefined cocoa powder
Place ingredients into food processor and blend until smooth or the consistency you choose. Roll dough into balls and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Additions of cacao nibs, dried cranberries, cherries or strawberries can be added after the dough is processed. To make snowballs roll cookies in unsweetened raw coconut while they are still sticky and allow to dry or waxed paper.
Chocolate has been prized throughout the centuries and medical science is starting to show us why.
Links to some of my related blog posts: