A much sweeter snack might be stealing fish, kale and avocado’s thunder.

Dark chocolate has joined the list of memory “superfoods” such as omega 3 filled fish, walnuts and berries, foods that have proved to strengthen memory. Eating dark chocolate can have the same positive impacts on memory, according to a recent study in the Nature Neuroscience journal.

The study used healthy people, ages 50 to 69. Those who drank cocoa flavanols, a mixture high in antioxidants, for three months performed better on a memory test than people who drank a low-flavanol mixture, according to a New York Times article.

Flavonoids are natural plant-based compounds that are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Flavanols exist as a smaller class within the flavonoid family.

What make cocoa flavanols so special is their unique composition, there isn’t a single flavanol in existence that directly resembles that of the cocoa bean. The cocoa flavanol has a number of health benefits when consumed in moderation.

PSUC Alumna and Registered Dietician Maia Karey believes that the cocoa bean has many hidden talents that most people don’t know about.

“Within moderation, eating dark chocolate can have several positive effects on your health,” Karey said. “From improved circulation, cognitive health, skin health and even improved exercise performance.”

These results are strictly limited to dark chocolate containing a high percent of cocoa flavanols or cocoa solids. Karey suggests buying dark chocolate within 75-90 percent range is best but said that after the 85 percent you can notice a slightly bitter taste.

Even though improvements to memory are a known benefit of eating dark chocolate, it isn’t an instant fix for memorization of test material like freshman nutrition major Erica Montross had hoped. The study revealed that the results are seen over time and mostly linked to counteracting the process of memory loss that goes along with aging.

“After reading about the benefits of the cocoa flavanols, it’s never too early to get a head start I guess,” Montross said.

On average, Montross said she spends 8-10 hours in the library each week. She often relies on a snack to give her the energy she needs to finish her assignments or studying.

Montross said her snack of choice is usually almonds or walnuts, a granola bar or some fruit.

“Occasionally I will treat myself with some trail mix with M&M’s in it,” she said “I might switch it up and try some trail mix with dark chocolate in it. If I can find some, now I won’t feel as guilty.”

For some people, the bitter taste of dark chocolate is enough to keep them from eating it. There is still hope however for the people who want the benefits of the cocoa flavanols but can’t stomach the taste.

Epicatechin is the scientific name for the exact composition of the cocoa beans flavanols.

“Mars already sells a supplement, CocoaVia, which said it promotes healthy circulation for the heart and brain. It contains 20 to 25 milligrams of epicatechin per packet of powder or capsule serving,” Dr. Schroeter said. Thirty packets cost $34.95, according to the New York Times article.

Karey said that eating dark chocolate can affect the mood of the consumer; and that it makes her happier.

Sophomore psychology major Anna Mitchell said she made the switch to dark chocolate a little over a year ago.

“I’ve always had a sweet tooth, and chocolate is usually my go-to,” she said.

After watching an episode of The Doctor Oz show on ways to have “cheat snacks” Mitchell said she started doing so research on flavanols or cocoa solids.

“Reading about the positive effects the flavanols can have was really interesting,” she said. “Adding it to my diet, in moderation of course, seemed like a no-brainer.”

Mitchell said that she hasn’t noticed any changes in her mood since she made the switch.

“When your body feels good, you feel good,” she said. “With improved circulation that leads to a better flow of oxygen you’re more likely to feel more alert and attuned with what’s going on around you.”

Having a sweet tooth could potentially benefit your health, in moderation of cou
rse.

Email Madison Winters at madison.winters@cardinalpointsonline.com

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