Whether you're a mom, a grandmom, or just celebrating the women who brought you into this world… I hope that you have a very happy Mother's Day this coming weekend.
No matter what you call her -- “Mom,” “Mother,” “Ma,” or “Mama” -- she wants the best for you, no doubt about that. So, when it comes to a gift for that special mom in your life, only the best will do.
If she’s anything like my wife (or my daughter, who’s also a mother herself), some chocolate can go a long way toward showing gratitude – and it turns out that the BEST chocolate out there is the DARK stuff.
Because according to a pair of new studies, not only does dark chocolate taste good… but it can also give your brain and your immune system a powerful boost!
Researchers from Loma Linda University observed the brain activity of volunteers who’d each eaten a normal-sized dark chocolate bar containing 70 percent cacao.
In the first study, researchers detected a boost in gamma activity a half hour after the dark chocolate had been consumed. That's a sign that the subjects’ gray matter had more power to form connections and make repairs (a.k.a. "neuroplasticity") – and that’s a sign of a healthy, young brain.
Gamma waves are also associated with stress reduction, and what better gift could there be for your dear mom than that?!
Even better, that increased activity was still going strong after two hours had passed.
In the second study, researchers found that consuming dark chocolate with high cacao content turned on switches that activate the immune system’s T cells, which fight infection and reduce inflammation.
Of course, it’s not the sugar or the fat in those chocolate bars that carry all of those health benefits – it’s the cacao. Specifically, it’s the cacao’s antioxidant compounds, called flavonoids, that are probably what stimulate your gray matter and your immune cells.
Of course, the higher the percentage of cacao in your chocolate, the GREATER the benefits. So, whether it's Mother's Day or any other day you want to do something special for the mom in your life – or even yourself! -- look for chocolate that's 70 percent cacao or higher at your local health food store or in the gourmet chocolate aisle. (That “Special Dark” you can pick up at the checkout aisle only has about 45 percent cacao, which just won’t cut it.)
As I said, the higher the cacao content, the greater the benefits… up to a point, anyway. The taste is more bitter than what you may be used to, so you’d probably only use a 100 percent cacao bar for baking.