A dose of dessert may be the best memory-keeper.
For the review, Italian researchers specifically looked at what happens to your brain a few hours after you eat cocoa flavanols—the antioxidants found in dark chocolate—compared to what happens when you eat them for an extended period of time.
They concluded that young people experienced subtle, immediate brain-boosting effects after taking advanced cognitive tests.
As for prolonged chocolate consumption? Older adults who ingested cocoa flavanols from time periods ranging from five days to three months saw an improvement in their working memory, verbal fluency, attention, and brain processing speed.
The effects were more pronounced in people who were already starting to experience mental decline, the review found.
It’s possible that flavanol-rich cocoa may significantly increase blood flow to your brain tissue, particularly to your hippocampus, which plays a critical role in preserving your memory as you age.
The researchers recommend eating some dark chocolate every single day.
But that’s no excuse to go overboard: Chocolate is calorically dense, and eating too much of it can pack on the pounds.
Still, as long as you limit your serving size to 1 ounce, it’ perfectly fine to indulge once a day, says registered dietician Chris Mohr, Ph.D., R.D.
To get the most benefits out of your sweet treat, choose one that claims at least 70 percent cacao on the package.
You can also try adding a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to this high-protein chocolate ice cream:
Better yet, add 100 percent cocoa nibs into your yogurt or oatmeal.
You’ll still reap the health benefits without expanding your waistline.