Do the Math: You need to eat more chocolate.


Just in case you needed another excuse, the list of benefits from chocolate keeps getting longer.

For years medical studies have been telling us that dark chocolate can be good for our health.
But can chocolate really make us better at math?

In a nutshell, dark chocolate is good for us because it has a high concentration of antioxidants; in fact ounce for ounce, chocolate and cocoa contain more antioxidants than such good-for-you foods as green tea and blueberries. Antioxidants work by neutralizing unstable molecules that can trigger changes in the structure of normally healthy cells. Known benefits include lowered blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, and protection from heart disease, as well as possible protections from stroke and cancer, decreased complications in pregnant women, pain response reduction, and delayed brain function decline with aging.

Now the focus has turned to one particular class of antioxidant called flavenols. Flavenols have always been around, and are highly concentrated in cocoa beans. Food processors have just recently developed a method of turning cocoa into chocolate that retains the flavenols.

Early research suggests that eating flavenol-rich chocolate improves blood flow to the brain improving performance on challenging mental tasks. Cocoa-drinking test subjects significantly improved their ability with basic computations, like counting backwards by threes, and reported feeling less mentally drained afterwards.

So dark chocolate is a wonder food and we should run out and eat as much as possible, right? Not exactly. There is a right way to eat chocolate that allows you to get the greatest benefit.

The darker the chocolate, the better
Dark chocolate is much richer in antioxidants than milk or white chocolate. The higher the percentage of cocoa (most quality chocolates are labeled with this information) the greater the health benefits.

Eat moderately
Always sound advice. Especially with a high-calorie food like chocolate where health benefits can be quickly outweighed by over-indulgence.

Avoid the high calorie extras
Caramel, marshmallow, nonpareils— not a lot of antioxidants; stick with plain, dark chocolate, or maybe chocolate with fruit or nuts.

Skip the milk
Milk consumed with chocolate interferes with the antioxidants. It’s a shame. They do taste good together.

Now about that math… it’s not all that often that we are called upon to count backwards by threes (and full disclosure: in the same study there was no chocolate-related improvement when the subjects were asked to count backwards by sevens). And it took the equivalent of five candy bars to perk up that cerebral blood flow. But truth be told, do you really need a reason to eat more chocolate?

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