Yep, you read it correctly- Chocolate is AMAZING for your brain, and quite honestly, for your entire system, both physically and emotionally, and, well, spiritually. Not only does it taste incredible, but it releases endorphins (happy chemicals), anandamide (bliss chemical- think how you feel when you do something you absolutely love or when you fall in love with someone), it supplies magnesium which is ESSENTIAL for brain, heart and overall body health, it increases circulation, which again, increases brain health, amongst many other amazing benefits. The kicker, though, is it has to be 72% or above (sugar and cow's milk block a lot of the benefits) and raw is best. Raw chocolate provides enzymes that help breakdown and absorb the constituents in the chocolate, while roasted chocolate doesn't (most chocolate bars are roasted).
Raw cacao also contains a flavonoid (flavonoids have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties) called minus or (-) epicatechin. This flavonoid increases circulation and the growth of blood vessels, which in turn brings more oxygen and nutrients to the brain, improving cognition. Spatial memory and vasculature is increased in mice because of (-) epicatechin.
"...neuroprotective actions of cocoa flavonoids involve a number of effects within the brain, including a potential to protect neurons against injury induced by neurotoxins, an ability to suppress neuro-inflammation and may therefore have a potential to promote memory, learning and cognitive function... long-term improvement in brain blood flow could impact cognitive behavior, offering future potential for impairing brain conditions leading to dementia and stroke." ( R.R Watson et al, Chocolate in Health and Nutrition). Effects of cacao flavonols may have effects on the protection from neuro-degeneration and decreased neuro-inflammation.
The stimulant in cacao is theobromine, not caffeine (although there is a little bit of caffeine present). Theobromine differs from caffeine in the sense that it has a lesser impact on our central nervous systems. It does, however, stimulate the heart to a greater degree. It is a myocardial stimulant as well as a vasodilator, it increases heartbeat and dilates blood vessels; reducing blood pressure. Theobromine is what dogs cannot metabolize, therefore it is what makes them sick and why they cannot consume chocolate in any form.
In 5 out of 7 studies done on the effect of cacao and chocolate-related products in humans found there was a significant enhancement/improvement of certain aspects of individuals' neurocognition functioning, and, in particular on tasks assessing simple reaction time, rapid visual information processing, energetic arousal, episodic memory, cognitive processing speed and sequential abilities, perceptual speed, access to semantic memory, mental fatigue and choice reaction time.
Cacao also contains tryptophan, the amino acid present in turkey that makes you feel tired after eating. This tiredness is from the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the precursor to melatonin (your internal sleep aid), so it also helps regulate sleep patterns. Tryptophan is also converted to niacin (one of the B vitamins present in our bodies) and it is essential for metabolizing food into energy while also maintaining a healthy nervous system.
Cacao also has profound effects on our pineal glands, which are our "intuition centers" in our brains. It is vitally important for our pineal glands to be functioning properly. They regulate our sleep cycles, endocrine function, immune system function and antioxidant activity. Our pineal glands also keep us in tuned to our inner guidance system and help us navigate our lives, helping us fulfill our purpose. As we age and when we consume fluoride, our pineal glands get calcified, leading to mis-regulated sleep patterns, endocrine function and other patterns that are not of our greatest benefit. Cacao DECALCIFIES our pineal glands, so it effectively removes the "junk" encapsulating our gland, therefore restoring and balancing its functions. I believe, that while we're young and trying to navigate this world, living our purpose and maximizing our human potential, it's important for our intuitive guidance to be as clear as it can be. This is just one of the reasons why I consume raw cacao as often as possible and also why I started my company- Eye of Raw, so not only could I consume it as often as possible, but it gave me a way to share this medicine with all of you.
There are so many amazing recipes you can create with raw cacao, it's pretty spectacular. I personally love making hot cacao drinks and enjoying them in the morning in replacement of coffee. Cacao (and my herbal mixes) is amazing in smoothies as well. Just add some with a banana, milk of choice and cinnamon and blend!
Just remember, the more processed the chocolate, the more flavonoids (and all of their benefits) are lost. Milk, sugar and other additives dilute the flavonoid content per weight. So make sure the chocolate bar you buy has minimal additives and is preferably 72% and above. Raw chocolate is also preferable.
To sum it all up, cacao is something to consider adding into your daily diet. Everyone is different, so pay attention to what your body is telling you when you consume it, but I think it is definitely worth a shot. Play around with some recipes and let me know what you discover! The options are endless.
"Seven days without chocolate makes one weak."