It seems Easter is nearly upon us and the supermarket shelves are stacked with chocolate bunnies and eggs galore. Since this is also the time of year when teenagers have their heads buried in their books and laptops revising for important exams, it led me to wonder if there is any research to suggest that students who munch on chocolate when revising for exams gain any benefit from doing so. As luck would have it, for the chocoholics amongst us, it seems there is!
Chocolate contains around 380 different chemicals. Some are believed to have positive benefits to brainpower. For example, found in quite high levels in dark chocolate, antioxidants such as flavonoids increase the flow of blood to the brain and heart, in some cases heightening cognitive function through greater oxygen levels. They also lower blood pressure.
Chemical compounds such as phenylethylamine (PEA) can have a positive effect on our mood by encouraging the brain to release endorphins. This has potential to decrease stress and raise feelings of motivation and enthusiasm. Low levels of caffeine in chocolate act as a mild stimulant, although levels are considerably lower than those found in coffee.
Sadly, the effects of eating chocolate are not all positive. Remember chocolate is high in fat and the more processed it is, the less likely it is have retained any health benefit. I believe the saying goes ‘everything in moderation.’
Other brain boosting super-foods to include in the diet while studying include walnuts, olive oil, berries, oily fish like sardines and salmon, avocado, garlic, spinach, beetroot and most importantly water. Remaining hydrated while studying is a key factor for concentration. Dehydration causes the brain tissue to shrink impairing short-term memory, focus and decision making.