Have a big meeting, test or dinner with the in-laws? Eating dark chocolate can give your brain a short-term boost—increasing your alertness—for two to three hours, a University of Nottingham study found. Flavanols, one of dark chocolate’s key components, dilates blood vessels, allowing more oxygen and blood to reach key areas of the brain, which can help you soldier against fatigue and the effects of aging. The study participants consumed a flavanol-rich cocoa drink, but you can eat dark chocolate by itself—or any foods high in flavanols like red wine, green tea and blueberries.
Dark chocolate makes my list of 15 brain foods to boost focus and memory for good reason. Previous research showed that “acute as well as chronic ingestion of flavanol-rich cocoa is associated with increased blood flow to cerebral gray matter and it has been suggested that cocoa flavanols might be beneficial in conditions with reduced cerebral blood flow, including dementia and stroke.”
Protects against sun –The flavonols can protect against sun-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration. If you are out in the sun, dark chocolate can reduce your possibilities of getting sun burned or just help not to burn your skin as much. And if you were to get sun burned, it can help you heal quicker.
Dark chocolate -- but not milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk -- is a potent antioxidant, report Mauro Serafini, PhD, of Italy's National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, and colleagues. Their report appears in the Aug. 28 issue of Nature. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.
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Interestingly enough, even human breast milk was analyzed and results were 2.0 (higher than the manufactured formulas). The highest numbers came from the herbs and traditional medicine category with numbers off the charts. For example dried amla (Indian gooseberry) with 261.5 mmol/100 g. Upon closer inspection of the types of foods, there was no indication of comparison with conventional and organically grown foods. This would be an important distinction for further study considering the results of a study on organic versus conventional strawberries discovered that organic strawberries had a higher antioxidant content.
Baur JA, Pearson KJ, Price NL, Jamieson HA, Lerin C, Kalra A, Prabhu VV, Allard JS, Lopez-Lluch G, Lewis K, Pistell PJ, Poosala S, Becker KG, Boss O, Gwinn D, Wang M, Ramaswamy S, Fishbein KW, Spencer RG, Lakatta EG, Le CD, Shaw RJ, Navas P, Puigserver P, Ingram DK, de CR, Sinclair DA. Resveratrol improves health and survival of mice on a high-calorie diet. Nature. 2006;444:337–342. doi: 10.1038/nature05354. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef]
No, it’s not your imagination; some research supports the idea that chocolate really can boost your mood. It’s the fatty acids that do the trick, and dark chocolate contains two saturated fatty acids — palmitic and stearic acids — in addition to its health-boosting flavonoids. More research needs to be done, DuBost says, but studies have found that chocolate in particular can make you feel happier and improve your mood. The theory is that chocolate stimulates the neural activity in the regions of the brain associated with pleasure and reward, she says.
Eating sugary foods late at night could lead to a rush in energy at a time when we should be focusing on slowing down and preparing the body to rest. Our 'happy hormone', serotonin is largely produced in the gut and is essential for melatonin production – the 'relaxation' hormone – necessary to aid a good night's sleep. If you're someone who has trouble sleeping, then it might help to reduce the sugar in your diet, and be kinder to your gut.