British researchers have all the fun. They just found a delicious ingredient in many drinks and snacks that can improve your brain function. They gave the lucky study participants drinks either with or without this ingredient that’s high in flavanols. Flavanols are plant-based chemicals that have beneficial effects on the heart. Now we see they help the brain too.
For this study, presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference 2009, participants drank beverages containing no flavanols or either 520 mg or 993 mg of flavanols. Then they took mentally demanding math tests. Their math skills were significantly better on days when the drink was high in flavanols than on days without them. They also had less brain fatigue.
What was this flavanol-rich ingredient? Nothing other than chocolate. Yes, the food you’re probably indulging in this holiday season actually stimulates your brain.
But how can chocolate improve your mental performance? By increasing blood flow to the brain. However, not all chocolate products are high in these plant-based chemicals. Look for chocolate products that list the amount of flavanols in them, and choose the ones with the highest amounts. They may just keep you mentally alert and contribute to a healthy heart as well.
So the next time you sit down to balance your checkbook, or figure out your monthly expenses, make sure you eat a little chocolate, first.
But keep this in mind — chocolate is high in sugar. Eating a lot of sugar can cause dangerous fluctuations in your blood sugar levels, which can cause mental fatigue. Don’t over-do a good thing by eating too much. A little chocolate — like one or two squares of a dark chocolate bar — may be therapeutic. But eating the whole thing isn’t better. Too bad.
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Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand