Warming up with a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day isn’t just a tasty treat, it could help boost your brain power, too. A small new study finds sipping on cocoa can make you think faster and sharper and those cognitive benefits are thanks to compounds called flavanols. The nutrient is found naturally in chocolate and after drinking cocoa, participants did better on a series of complex mental tests.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham split participants into two groups – one got a hot chocolate drink high in flavanols and the other got a placebo drink without flavanols. And the group who drank the flavanols before the brain tests finished up to 11% faster. These experiments used cocoa, but flavanols are really common and are found in tea and red wine and fruits and vegetables including berries, apples, and kale.
Study authors also found the blood oxygen levels in their brains increased after consuming flavanols, which suggests the brain power boost is linked to oxygen levels. “If you’re being challenged more, your brain needs improved blood oxygen levels to manage that challenge,” explains lead study author Catarina Rendeiro. She adds, “Flavanols might be particularly beneficial during cognitively demanding tasks.”