CHOCOLATE IS BRAIN FOOD By Cord Prettyman, MPT
Any smart shopper knows that the healthy thing to do in a grocery store is to shop the perimeter and stay away from the center aisles, especially the frozen food section. However, while my wife is recovering from back surgery, I find that grocery shopping has fallen on me – a pretty unfamiliar task.
The job of cooking is also temporarily in my domain, which is even more unfamiliar terrain. Consequently, I have found myself drifting into the frozen food section with my cooking partner Mrs. Stouffer.
Last weekend, driven by some sinister forces, I found a package of Klondike Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream bars inexplicitly in my shopping cart. Now, I know what my California client, Angela, meant when she confessed decades ago to eating chocolate on a daily basis and, when scolded by me, said simply, “The Devil made me do it.”
Weighing in at 250 calories (140 calories from fat with 9 grams of saturated fat) per tiny bar, it only took one bar to snap me to my senses. Anything that tastes that good could not possibly be good for you. The other five bars went down the garbage disposal.
Coincidently, the next day an email popped up on my screen from the Harvard Health Blog with the title – “Your brain on chocolate.” The blog started out with a 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine claiming that the places on the planet with the highest consumption of chocolate have the most Nobel Prize recipients.
Is it possible that intelligence and high brain functions actually correlate with chocolate consumption – perhaps, even Klondike Bars? Recent research says, “Maybe.”
A new review published in the May 2017 issue of Frontiers in Nutrition analyzed the evidence to date that flavanols that are found in dark chocolate and cocoa may benefit human brain function. Flavanols are a form of flavonoids – plant-based substances that offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Sorry, but the same isn’t true for milk chocolate or white chocolate.
Professing that short-term consumption of dark chocolate is beneficial is a 2011 study of young adults, whose memory and reaction time were better two hours after consuming chocolate with a high flavanol content than the control group eating white chocolate with a low flavanol content. Touting the long-term benefits is a 2014 study that found adults ages 50 to 69 that consumed a cocoa supplement with high flavanol content performed better on memory tests after three months that the subjects taking a low-flavanol cocoa supplement.
And finally, several studies have demonstrated improved brain blood flow, oxygen levels and nerve function after the consumption of cocoa drinks. The authors of the studies suggest that, while the findings are intriguing, more research is needed.
Dark chocolate and cocoa are not the only foods containing flavanols. Many fruits and vegetables are also rich in flavanols but come on – the choice between chocolate and broccoli is a no-brainer.
Regardless of the research, Klondike Bars aren’t going to win you a Nobel Prize. Trust me.
Cord Prettyman is a certified Master Personal Trainer and owner of Absolute Workout Fitness and Post-Re-hab Studio in Woodland Park. He can be reached at 687-7437, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org through his website at www.cordprettyman.com.