Now that the mornings are crisper and we’ll soon have frost on the pumpkins, my thoughts turn to warm drinks. Once that was coffee, but I had to give it up. As a life-long fan of hot chocolate who worries about middle-aged spread, hot chocolate went by the way-side, too. But recently I’ve seen results of some medical studies which have re-considering drinking hot chocolate again. Yum!
Harvard University did a study where they had people with high blood pressure drink two cups of hot chocolate a day for a month. 1/3 of the study group had impaired blood flow to the brain. At the end of the study that group showed an 8 percent increase in blood flow and improved their speed on a working memory test. Hooray!
Really the researchers concluded that chocolate may ward off dementia later in life. The American Academy of Neurology also looked at the effect of cocoa consumption on cognition and in the neurovascular link between nerve cell activity and blood flow to the brain. They found in their 30-day study that participants with impaired blood flow who drank two cups of hot chocolate a day saw an 8.3 percent improvement. They do recommend low-calorie, sugar free variety of cocoa.
A year ago an Italian study that tested 90 seniors had the same result. They decided cocoa is rich in flavanols which is what they believe helps maintain brain power as one ages. In a similar study at John Hopkins researchers don’t think the antioxidant flavanol plant compound is what boosts the blood flow to the brain, but say it’s a good first step for guiding future studies. Previous studies have only shown beneficial effects connected with dark chocolate, but now the more recent studies point to all cocoa having some vascular benefit.
How many of you have ever brewed chocolate tea? The other day a tea expert on Dr. Oz’s show claimed making tea from cocoa nibs calms nerves and relieves anxiety. He recommended starting with organic cocoa nibs and said to let 1 tablespoon of the nibs steep in very hot water for 5 to 7 minutes before drinking the tea.
I found instructions on the Internet for chocolate tea. They say to start with filtered or bottled water. Heat the water to a rolling boil and then fill your teapot. Measure 1 rounded tablespoon with loose chocolate tea per 12 oz of water. For a change of pace you can add cinnamon, or ginger—1.5 tsp per 8 oz of water.
We have a tea shop in town, but I’ve never been there. Apparently tea shops sell bagged chocolate tea, but it’s not pure chocolate like the nibs. Most bagged tea sold as chocolate tea contains yerba mate, a South American herbal stimulant, or they may contain a mix of chocolate, roasted carob, or chicory for better flavor.
I’m for trying anything that tastes yummy and may improve my brain power. So I’m off to find the tea store where a friend tells me she buys cacao mint black tea that she adds a dash of cream and rock sugar for extra decadence. What do you all think?