Chocolate lovers of the world rejoice! Finally we have another reason to love it, not only is it delicious but it may be good for our brains too.

Well, it’s not so much the chocolate itself but the flavonols within cocoa that have a number of health benefits. But hey, let’s satisfy those 3pm cravings and praise chocolate anyway.

What are flavanols?

Cocoa flavonols are the plant based nutrients found naturally within cocoa, no other food has the same unique blend of flavanols.

A recent study asked, what happens to your brain after you eat cocoa flavonols? The findings did not disappoint!

Cocoa improves memory, performance and more…

Next time you’re munching down on chocolate and feeling guilty, don’t! The researchers discovered a number of improvements in participants memory and visual information processing after consuming cocoa flavanols.

Interestingly, they also found that women who consumed cocoa after a night of total sleep deprivation were able to combat the cognitive impairments associated with poor sleep.

As we know a lack of adequate sleep can have detrimental affects on daily functioning. It can impair attention and working memory as well as long-term memory and decision-making abilities.

So, if you’re a shift worker, parent of kids that don’t like sleep or a self-confessed night owl, chocolate may be your new best friend.

How much should be consumed?

The study found daily intake of cocoa flavonols has the most impact on attention, processing speed, working memory and verbal fluency.

It should be distinguished that while milk and white chocolate are good it’s dark chocolate that is good for you. This is due to the larger concentration of cocoa (and therefore flavanols) within it.

Other health benefits of cocoa

1. Promotes healthy circulation

The circulatory system plays a vital role in our daily functions. It involves a complex network of blood vessels, arteries and capillaries which travel all throughout the body. It’s the pathway for delivering oxygen and vital nutrients to organs and tissues.

The flavonols in cocoa help promote healthy blood circulation throughout the body to maintain a smooth flow of oxygen and nutrients.

Unfortunately for milk chocolate lovers it’s dark chocolate that has the most sizeable impact on circulatory health. The flavonols in dark chocolate can stimulate the lining of our arteries, lowering resistance to blood flow and also lowering blood pressure.

2. Lowers risk of heart disease

That hot chocolate isn’t just warming your heart on a cold evening, it might actually be helping your heart health too.

A study published in BMJ found that high levels of chocolate consumption resulted in a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease.

3. Lowers risk of stroke

High dark chocolate consumption has also been associated with lowering the risk of stroke by up to 29%. Another study conducted by Canadian scientists found that chocolate eaters were 22% less likely to suffer strokes.

While these health benefits are enticing, don’t go devouring the whole block just yet. There may be some health benefits associated with dark chocolate but it should be consumed in moderation.