Protect Your Brain With This Feel-Good Food

The name means "food of the gods."

For thousands of years, humans have enjoyed chocolate in various forms... myself among them...

Longtime readers of my monthly newsletter, Retirement Millionaire, also know that the many active chemicals, flavonoids, and antioxidants in cocoa provide lots of health benefits. Specifically, the antioxidants in chocolate help blood vessels expand and regulate the flow of blood, which helps blood pressure.

Researchers in Australia found that eating three to 100 grams of dark chocolate per day lowers blood pressure by two millimeters of mercury for both the top (systolic) and bottom (diastolic) numbers... meaning a reading of 120/80 dropped to 118/78. Lower blood pressure also significantly reduces cardiovascular risks like heart attacks or strokes.

About twenty years ago, some groundbreaking work on chocolate found that chemicals in cocoa triggered sensors in the brain similarly to cannabis. Chocolate helps release endorphins, a type of neurotransmitter that increases "pleasant" feelings.

And now researchers are focusing on how chocolate can help the brain. A 2013 Harvard study, published in the medical journal Neurology, found that seniors who drank two cups of hot cocoa per day for a month performed better on memory and thinking tests than those who didn't drink hot cocoa. The cocoa drinkers also showed improved blood flow to their brains.

The flavonoids in chocolate may be the cause for brain health. In fact, some researchers are now pushing to add chocolate to the diets of elderly Americans who may be at risk for Alzheimer's.

All of the studies agree – dark chocolate is good for your health. Milk chocolate can be loaded with more sugar and cholesterol. But dark chocolate contains more antioxidants and flavonoids, making it a healthier choice.

I recommend eating a small piece of dark chocolate a few times a week. And if the calories worry you, try doing what I do: I park my car a good walking distance from my destination and eat a Hershey's Kiss as I walk. That way I'm getting all the benefits of chocolate and still burning calories.