Friday, October 25, 2013

Hot Chocolate Is Good For The Brain---by Roz Denny Fox


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?

32 comments:

  1. Yummy post, Roz! I'm a big believer in the health benefits of chocolate...but of course it has to be real chocolate (not milk choc. which has very little cocoa in it). I keep a stock of cocoa powder at home, for both baking recipes and hot cocoa from scratch. I also keep dark chocolate chips handy. Sucking on a few can cure a sweet tooth or chocolate craving. And in terms of chocolate bars for a treat, the latest fave at my house is a brand called Endangered Species (10% gets donated to the cause) and it's 72% dark chocolate. I've been known to pop a piece of baking chocolate (zero sugar) in my mouth ;). I don't mind the bitterness. It curbs my appetite.

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  2. Any time chocolate is viewed in a healthy light, I'm happy. I buy dark chocolate only and grab a piece (usually those bags of Lindt Chocolate) when I'm feeling...oh, like I really need it. Interesting that having it in the house doesn't tease me to eat, eat, eat. It really doesn't. The bad can last a long time. I like Rula Sinara's suggestion of the dark choc chips. I used to keep them in the house, too, and take a few when needed. Sounds like a doctor's prescription! Nice post, Roz.

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  3. What great information, Roz! I read where eating dark chocolate helped focus and creativity, so I've been having a square of chocolate before I write. With 70% chocolate, I can stop at one (or two) squares. I'm going to look into this chocolate tea--sounds perfect for a winter day.

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  4. Chocolate tea sounds yummy! It's good to see more studies supporting my instinctive need for chocolate. :)

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  5. Roz, this is heartening news! I never would've guessed sugar-free hot chocolate could have the same effect as regular, but what a treat to know it's okay.

    Thanks for a great start to the weekend!

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  6. Rula, Linda, Jeannie, Cindy and Laurie---glad to see I'm not the only person who likes dark chocolate. I keep a bar of dark chocolate in the freezer and when I want something sweet I break off a square. I did find a couple of chocolate teas at our Whole Foods store. I like one better than the other. I don't like the one with chicory.

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  7. I'm showing this to David. I'll tell him that the reason I bought 4 bags of cowboy chocolate was to improve my life. (That's true - I just didn't know it had a scientific basis!)

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    1. Aimee, what is Cowboy chocolate---sounds like a great book title. Indeed I'm sure it's fuel for the writer's brain.

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  8. hehe- I remembered hearing something about the 'Chocolate Scandal' so I googled it and here's what it says! " By the late 1600's, the grand ladies of the land had become so fond of this frothy beverage that they were accustomed to having it served to them frequently, even in church. As justification for their enjoyment, they referred to its medicinal use, and claimed it prevented fainting and "weakness" during the long ceremonies. One bishop considered it a blatant abuse, and forbad the practice. Drinking chocolate in church obviously broke the fast laws. (Not to mention that so much pleasure must be pagan!) The ladies, in retaliation, simply took themselves and their entourage to another church. A rumor holds that the offending clergyman later died of a cup of poisoned chocolate. The whole affair became a fearful scandal. Eventually, in 1662, Pope Alexander VII put a final solution to the affair when he declared " Liquidum non frangit jejunum." [Liquids (including chocolate) do not break the fast.] It is likely that this decision was based on the fact that chocolate, like so many other herbs, was considered to have medicinal qualities."

    Even the church can't stand up to the might of chocolate- lol! Thanks for this fun Friday post, Roz.

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    1. Cool info, Karen! Dark chocolate and cocoa are actually a good source of iron (I've seen in listed at #9 in the top 10 foods rich in iron), so those women could have been telling the truth when they claimed it helped with weakness and fainting, LOL.

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    2. Karen, What a great addition to the studies being done today. Who knew women in the 1600's were more gutsy than we've been led to believe. I'm sure the chocolate they had back then was more pure than most we find today with so many additives.

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    3. Really, Karen, that's fascinating stuff. Wish I wrote historicals.

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  9. Roz, given I'm a dark chocolate covered espresso bean-aholic, I loved the post (and Karen's research was a great addition). I may have to go get some chocolate tea, since my green tea fetish has lagged behind the euphoria of espresso beans!

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    1. Melinda, I'll bet those are crunchy, too. If you have a Tevana tea shop near you, someone told me they have a really good chocolate tea. Our store is across town from me, so I went to Whole Foods. But I may have to snoop in Tevana.

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  10. Roz - I'd respond to this post, but I'm running downtown to find chocolate tea!

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    1. Muriel, I hope your tea shop has a good variety. Let us know. I'm anxious to try some with a pinch of cinnamon---just for the luscious smell if no other reason.

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  11. Great information, Roz. I eat dark chocolate every day, but chocolate tea sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing. If I might add something about the benefits of chocolate, my mother's physician in France recommended it to prevent hair loss. If chocolate increases blood flow to the brain, it makes sense that it would also activate hair follicles. Definitely, seniors have much to gain by consuming chocolate.

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    1. Vijaya, that is interesting information about chocolate being good for growing hair. That substantiates the studies done on increasing blood flow to the brain's neuropathways.

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  12. Had churros dipped in hot chocolate. They are very popular here in Sevilla,Spain. Yummy glad to hear that they are good for the brain. :)

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    1. Sandra, chocolate dipped churros and eating them in Spain--I'm jealous. You will have a lot to share with us when you return.

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  13. Great information Roz. We love chocolate and I like dark chocolate, but my kids do not. That is why I still have some dark chocolate left in my desk drawer. Never heard of chocolate tea so I will have to look for it. Wonderful post as always, Roz.

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  14. What great news, Roz. Next time I'm out I'm looking for chocolate tea. Anything chocolate, I'm in.

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  15. Dark chocolate has another great benefit--for the same medical reasons as all the aforementioned ones--it improves libido and sexual health in both women and men according to Dr. Oz and others... and I thought dark chocolate-covered strawberries were already an amazingly romantic dessert!

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  16. I've never heard of chocolate tea, but am a fan of chocolate wine.

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  17. Yay for hot cocoa improving brain function! I think I've always known that deep down which is why I'm a sucker for it this time of year, right??? LOL. And I'm going to have to find chocolate tea. That sounds fabulous!!!

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  18. Gail, Linda, Roxy, Liz and Syndi---Your comments add to the arsenal of reasons to buy chocolate. Roxy--LOL, and Liz, who sells chocolate wine? It sounds wonderfully decadent. Roxy needs to add that with her dark chocolate-covered strawberries.

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    1. It's in liquor stores, Roz, and I think even the grocery--at least during holiday times. I was the last nail appointment one day, and they locked the doors and all of us in there (all old customers) enjoyed a little warmth!

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    2. Liz, I'm definitely going to Total Wine to look for some to have at the holidays. It sounds like a great dessert wine. Yum. Thanks for the info.

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    3. Chocolate wine is fantastic! Definitely a wonderful add-on to the dark chocolate strawberries. Yum!!

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  19. Great post. I too will be in search of chocolate tea. And I've had the chocolate red wine and its really good-too good:)

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  20. So interesting, Roz! I, too, am always on the search for something to help my poor overloaded brain. Nothing worries me more than...shoot, I forgot what it is. :)

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  21. I think if we look hard enough, we can find anything to support the things we like. One day something is good for us, the next it isn’t.
    Marion

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