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LoveYourBrain Tip: Eat Dark Chocolate!

EAT DARK CHOCOLATE!

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BRAIN HEALTH | 5.18.2015 | BY DAYA ALEXANDER GRANT, M.S.

The benefits of dark chocolate are becoming more widely known. Here are some ways it’s good for the brain.

  • Cocoa is packed with molecules called flavonoids, which have a positive effect on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory
  • Dark chocolate allows the “bliss molecule”, also called anandamide (Ananada is Sanskrit for “bliss”), to roam freely in the brain and make you feel…well…blissful
    • How does this work? Anandamide naturally occurs in the brain, but it’s broken down very quickly, which is why you don’t feel that natural high all the time. Compounds in dark chocolate block the enzymes that break down anandamide, so the “bliss molecule” is preserved and we experience a very mild natural high.
  • You may win a Nobel Prize! Well, here’s the deal: the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published a paper in 2012 showing a strong positive correlation between chocolate intake per capita and the number of Nobel laureates per 10 million people in various countries.
    • For example, China has a very low chocolate intake and few Nobel laureates. The U.S. is somewhere in the middle. And Switzerland? The Swiss eat a LOT of chocolate and have the most Nobel laureates! Sure, correlation does not equal causation, but this is still kind of cool, so why not eat some dark chocolate?

Just note that dark chocolate should be at least 70% cocoa to reap the full benefits and neither milk chocolate (as little as 10% cocoa) nor white chocolate (not even chocolate, but rather a vegetable butter made from cocoa) do the trick. Enjoy!