Fueled by Cocoa Flavanols

By: Alan Frost, Founder, FlavaNaturals

Backed by Science

Have you dreamed of the day when your doctor would tell you to nourish your brain and heart with dark chocolate and cocoa powder? Alas, in response to growing scientific evidence, many doctors and nutritionists are recommending adding cocoa flavanols, the antioxidants found in dark chocolate, to your daily menu.

The evidence is compelling. Cocoa flavanols have been researched at top academic institutions, including Harvard and Columbia, and are shown to promote cognition, support heart health, lower blood sugar and even brighten mood. Most experts believe improved blood flow is behind the positive impact of cocoa flavanols demonstrated in clinical trials.

One recent study published by scientists at the University of Birmingham, U.K., found that healthy adults performed a cognitively challenging task 11% faster than the placebo group after consuming a single dose of high flavanol cocoa. And a WSJ article, The link Between Diet, Exercise and Alzheimer’s, highlighted the findings of an 18-month study conducted by the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian. The study found that lifestyle changes, including “adding powdered cocoa flavanols to coffee, smoothies or milk”, significantly enhanced cognition in people at risk for Alzheimer’s.

In another highly referenced study, lead investigator, Dr. Scott Small of Columbia University found that, “If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months (900mg of cocoa flavanols per day) that person, on average, had the memory recall speed of a typical 30- or 40-year-old.”

This is just a sampling of existing research and there is much more to come! In fact,  Harvard is just completing COSMOS, a five-year, placebo-controlled study of cocoa flavanols with an astonishing 22,000 participants. COSMOS is designed to assess the long-term benefits of cocoa flavanols on heart health, cancer and cognition. Results from COSMOS are eagerly anticipated this fall – stay tuned!

Cocoa Flavanols, not Cacao%

Ask someone why dark chocolate is good for you, or how their favorite chocolate or cocoa powder stack up against other brands, and you’re likely to hear something like, “The higher the cacao percentage, the healthier the chocolate” or “the darker the chocolate, the better”.

It turns out, however, that most benefits of chocolate can be attributed to cocoa flavanol antioxidants, not cacao % (the portion of your chocolate coming from a cocoa bean). Cocoa flavanols support brain function and heart health by promoting circulation and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. 

So what determines cocoa flavanol levels in chocolate and cocoa powder? Cacao % is one factor, but bean selection is, perhaps, the most important. Flavanol levels vary from bean to bean depending on bean type, soil, climate and local farming practices. In fact, two beans from different farms can vary in flavanol content by a factor of 10!

Processing methods, including fermenting and roasting, are also important determinants of flavanol levels because cocoa flavanols are fragile and easily destroyed. And unfortunately, conventional chocolate processing, which uses alkalization (a chemical process) and high roasting temperatures destroys much of what is naturally good in chocolate and cocoa powder.

How many Flavanols? How Often? How to Choose?

So we know the science shows that chocolate and cocoa powder have compelling nutritional benefits, and that these benefits depend on the product’s cocoa flavanol levels as opposed to the cacao %. So what does this mean in terms of portions?

The flavanol levels consumed in studies that demonstrate a positive impact on brain and heart health generally range between 500mg and 1,000mg daily. Research also shows that flavanol benefits build with daily consumption. That’s why most cocoa flavanol studies measure the benefits of daily use over the course of weeks or months.

A typical dark chocolate bar, however, contains only 100mg of cocoa flavanols. And a typical serving of cocoa powder contains only 150mg. That means you would need to consume at least 5 average dark chocolate bars per day to achieve the levels used in successful studies! Milk chocolate contains even fewer flavanols while white chocolate contains none at all because it is not made from cocoa bean solids.

The good news is, high flavanol chocolate and cocoa powder is available. Be sure to choose your chocolate carefully and wisely. Search out dark chocolate or cocoa powder with a minimum of 500mg of cocoa flavanols per serving. Choose a brand that measures and lists the flavanol content on their packaging. Such brands are generally made with specially selected high flavanol beans, use all-natural processing, and are roasted at lower temperatures to preserve flavanols.

Then, enjoy daily to maximize your benefits!

If you’d like to purchase any of the delicious chocolate products from FlavaNaturals get a 10% discount, with an additional 15% benefitting the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement from now through February 14th. Use promo code: WAM. Shop here