While a heart-healthy diet is your first defense against the onset of heart disease, don’t trash your chocolate stash just yet. Exciting research published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension reveals a link between improved mental functioning in the elderly and powdered cocoa drinks.
Besides its more obvious qualities, like taste, the cocoa in chocolate is loaded with flavonols, a naturally occurring ingredient that is associated with a decreased risk of dementia. To prove this, researchers tested 90 elderly participants suffering from mild cognitive impairment. The result: Those who drank more flavonol-rich cocoa drinks daily registered significantly higher overall cognitive scores than those who abstained or drank less.
Surprisingly, insulin resistance and blood pressure (or hypertension) also decreased in those drinking high and intermediate levels of flavonols daily.
If you’re looking to indulge in some hot cocoa or other flavonol-rich chocolaty treat, remember that moderation is key. At the grocery store, look for low-sugar or sugar-free hot chocolate varieties, and in the candy aisle, stick to dark chocolate varities.