If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably feeling more than a little bit of stress and anxiety these days.
One of the things I like to do during times like these is reach for some good old-fashioned comfort food. And no, I don’t mean carb-heavy favorites like mac ‘n cheese.
One of my favorite treats is a much healthier indulgence: dark chocolate.
Numerous studies have shown that dark chocolate is packed with fiber and antioxidants, which help prevent cell damage from free radicals.1
It may also lower your risk of cardiovascular disease2 and diabetes3, improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and even improve your vision.4
But did you know that eating dark chocolate can actually help you reduce your stress levels?
Increase Gamma Frequency Brain Waves
A recent study from Loma Linda University Health in California sheds light on how dark chocolate affects our brain waves.5
The researchers used 48-gram bars of dark chocolate that were made from 70% cocoa beans from Tanzania.
They found that consuming the antioxidants in dark chocolate enhanced a beneficial brain frequency called gamma that helps us process information, improve memory and decrease stress.
Among the study participants, a “massive” increase in gamma frequency brain waves — and the positive effects associated with it — occurred within a half hour and lasted for several hours.
Even more calming relief comes from the antioxidant content of dark chocolate which contains up to four times the antioxidants found in tea.6
Get Your Sweet Brain Boost
Here’s what I look for in a good source of dark chocolate:
- Chocolate that contains 70% or more cocoa. This is the ingredient that contains the health benefits.
- Some nutrition experts recommend a slightly more bitter-tasting dark chocolate containing 85% cocoa. Simply put, a higher percentage of cocoa means less sugar.
- All dark chocolate contains some sugar, but you want to keep it as low as possible. And it’s better to choose real sugar over artificial sweeteners or chocolate labeled “sugar free.”
- Beware of other chemicals in the chocolate. Choose a brand that has pure ingredients and no chemical additives.
To Your Best Health Ever,
1. Wang, J.F., Schramm, D. D., et al, “A Dose-Response Effect from Chocolate Consumption on Plasma Epicatechin and Oxidative Damage,” Journal of Nutrition. 2000;130:2115S-2119S
2. Can Chocolate Lower Your Risk of Stroke?” American Academy of Neurology. www.aan.com.
3. Crichton GE., et al. “Habitual chocolate intake and type 2 diabetes mellitus in the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study: (1975-2010): Prospective observations.” 2017 Jan.
4. Rabin JC, et al. “Effects of milk vs dark chocolate consumption on visual acuity and contrast sensitivity within 2 hours: A randomized clinical trial.” JAMA Ophthalmol. 2018;136(6):678-681.
5. Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center. “Dark chocolate consumption reduces stress and inflammation: Data represent first human trials examining the impact of dark chocolate consumption on cognition and other brain functions.”ScienceDaily, 24 April 2018.
6. Fisher N, et al, “Flavanol-rich cocoa induces nitric-oxide-dependent vasodilation in healthy humans.” Journal of Hypertension 2003; 21(12):2281-2286