Updated: Nov 29, 2018
You know, chocolate does not really taste good. Not the raw, pure, mold free, sugar free, additive free, 100% cacao kind. But that is the part that is really good for you. Study after study has shown this. In the category of, "let food be your medicine", this is a real standout food.
Last year researchers in Italy discovered that cocoa flavanols exhibit neuroprotective effects. Volunteers experienced enhancements in their working memory as well as improved visual information processing, which the researchers argue could help stave off dementia and other diseases of cognitive decline as we age. Interestingly, for younger participants, the cognitive tests had to be highly demanding to witness benefits, though that tailed off at the upper end of the age range.
The researchers, who said they eat dark chocolate every day, did warn against chemical compounds in the cacao plant, such as caffeine and theobromine, as well as sugar and milk additives. The increased caloric content of bars with additives is also a concern.
Another Italian, Dr Rossella Di Stefano, a cardiologist the University of Pisa, also gives a thumbs up to chocolate. Only this time it stems from a study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology that found dark chocolate enhanced with olive oil “is associated with an improved cardiovascular risk profile.”
Volunteers, all of whom had at least three cardiovascular risk factors (such as smoking and hypertension), were given 40 grams of dark chocolate daily for 28 days. The chocolate contained either 10 percent olive oil or 2.5 percent Panaia red apple. The olive oil group experienced significantly higher endothelial progenitor cell levels, which is critical for vascular repair and endothelial function, as well as decreased levels of carnitine and hippurate. Their HDL cholesterol levels were also higher and blood pressure was lower.
This isn’t the first study to link heart health and chocolate. In 2014, research from the Netherlands found that dark chocolate restores flexibility to arteries and prevents white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels, both factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis. Can't beat that!
In 2015, researchers found that high-cacao bars improve attention, which is why one of the researchers eats dark chocolate every afternoon—to help with his midday slump. As psychological sciences professor Larry Stevens puts it:
“Chocolate is indeed a stimulant and it activates the brain in a really special way. It can increase brain characteristics of attention, and it also significantly affects blood pressure levels.”
With all of the talk around the microbiome today, in 2014 researchers at the American Chemical Society realized stomach microbes ferment compounds in chocolate to produce anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy compounds. The team also found that these compounds help prevent strokes.
Research published in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry states that beyond improved cognition, lower blood pressure, and appetite suppression, ingredients in chocolate might help prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes. Oligomeric procyanidins helped curb weight in mice and improved glucose tolerance, which could play a role in treating diabetics.
So how do we get this miraculous food in its healthiest form? I order raw cacao nibs from David Wolfe. I throw a package of them in my Vita Mix blender and grind them into a powder, put them back into the package and put them in the freezer. Then, in the mornings, I start my hot drink with a spoonful of this powder. Then I add a tablespoon full of Brain Octane from Bulletproof and sweeten with organic Stevia and maybe a little coconut cream. This is pretty good. I can't do coffee so this is a great substitute. According to my carotid scans, my arteries improved from being partially blocked to completely clear for the last few years, and I am almost 65 now. I have no evidence that chocolate is completely the reason for this good news, but science says that this is one of the many benefits. So I highly recommend adding loads of raw cacao to your daily health practice, without the milk and sugar.