Sunday, November 17, 2013

Does Hot Chocolate Boost Brain Power?

As the cold weather approaches a hot chocolate with marshmallows sounds tasty.  Are there any health benefits from drinking hot chocolate?  Apparently so.  Numerous articles have been written and research done on the health benefits of cocoa and hot chocolate.  So this winter when you are drinking your hot chocolate by the fire, think of these great health benefits:
  •  Cocoa Boosts Brain Power - The November 2013 issue of the Tufts University Nutrition Letter,  notes that drinking hot chocolate can boost brain power among the elderly ( Drinking Cocoa Boosts Cognition and Blood Flow in the Brain).   A new study has shown that as little as 2 cups of cocoa a day can improve brain function by improving cognitive function and blood flow to the brain.  It seems the flavonoids in cocoa and in dark chocolate help the brain by improving blood vessel function and thus blood flow.  Harvard researchers gave 2 cups of hot chocolate to 60 people (average age 73) for 30 days.  The study participants had no other chocolate.  Then they gave them a battery of tests, memory tests, thinking skills, and a test to measure blood flow to the brain.  The researchers found cocoa increased blood flow to the brain and thus cognition.    
  •   Cocoa and Your Heart:  Previous research notes that cocoa can be heart healthy.  An article in Circulation noted that cocoa is a beverage that can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (Contemporary Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine).  Drinking cocoa had a beneficial effect on blood pressure, insulin resistance and heart health.
How to enjoy the benefits of hot chocolate.
  • Make your own hot chocolate with cocoa, low fat or skim milk and a sweetener. 
  • Buy the hot chocolate packets that are low in sugar and calories.  We purchase Swiss Miss Diet Hot Cocoa Mix which only has 25 calories a serving.  I add a few marshmallows which does add some more calories but also adds a lot of flavor.
 Sources:  Drinking Cocoa Boosts Cognition and Blood Flow in the Brain, Contemporary Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine.  Image source:

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