Whether you’re battling the mid-day slump or can’t resist the pile of sweets in the kitchen, you may find yourself reaching for that stash of chocolate. Little did you know that eating chocolate actually provides a variety of physical and mental health benefits that can help elevate work performance too.
In this installment of The Productivity Box series, let’s dive into the science behind how specific nutrients in the cocoa bean enhance cognitive function, leading to a more efficient and productive workflow. If you’re not sure whether you should grab that chocolate, find out why it may actually help you.
The link between chocolate and improved brain function
You can thank an ingredient in cocoa, known as a flavonoid, for the impact that chocolate has on your brainpower. A flavonoid is an antioxidant that strengthens neural pathways in the brain responsible for many areas of cognitive performance, Frontiers in Nutrition points out.
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Like in coffee beans, cocoa flavonoids support brain function. Moreover, since chocolate is made from cocoa, you can experience the following benefits with just a square or two of this luscious treat:
- Flavonoids can help increase the brain’s executive functions. Based on the same research mentioned above, these antioxidants are shown to boost numerous executive functions such as: working memory, attention and focus, adaptability, emotional regulation, task initiation, and problem-solving.
- Flavonoids can help mitigate inadequate sleep patterns. Because it’s a source of caffeine that stimulates the central nervous system, chocolate is not ideal right before sleep. But if eaten several hours earlier, preferably in the morning or early afternoon, it can improve circadian rhythm. This leads to a more restful sleep at night and increased energy levels during the day, according to scientific reports.
- Flavonoids can help reduce the effects of stress on the mind. When you’re under the pressure of chronic mental stress, it’s often hard to concentrate, causing your work performance to suffer. However, research shows that flavonoids can curb the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can enhance your mood state and cognitive performance, according to the Antioxidants Journal.
So you see, the Aztecs and the Mayans were right, chocolate is the food of the gods 🙂
How to maximize chocolate’s advantages
It’s worth noting that not all types of chocolate contain the right amounts of flavonoid to yield these mental health benefits. So if you plan to use chocolate as a productivity booster, be selective about the ingredients in that chocolate square. After all, you deserve a workday treat that’s top-shelf quality, right?
To maximize the flavonoid’s impact on your cognition, opt for a dark chocolate varietal with at least 70 percent cacao. This is the raw, unroasted form of cocoa, preferred over milk chocolate. This high density of the cacao activate brain neuroplasticity, which increases cognitive function, explains researchers at Loma Linda University.
Don’t forget to be mindful of the chocolate’s sugar content and choose a brand with natural sugars, none of the artificial kind. Look for organic coconut sugar or agave to ensure that you don’t have to deal with the effects of a sugar crash. That usually leads to headaches, irritability, fatigue, jitters, lack of concentration, or other adverse impacts on your mood, according to Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. So, chocolate yey, sugar ney 😉
As a general rule, the darker and higher-quality the chocolate, the more nutrition it provides. Hershey’s may not boost your brainpower, but locally made or organically sourced chocolate can give you that extra little push.
Boost that brainpower
As with anything, enjoy your chocolate in moderation. This doesn’t mean you should be eating large quantities of chocolate daily. Instead, use it as a productivity tool, along with all the others in your toolbox.
Here are a few good guidelines to keep in mind when indulging in chocolate for productivity:
- Avoid chocolate with excessive added sugar or high sugar ingredients.
- Avoid chocolate with milk in it. The more natural, the better.
- Don’t rely on chocolate to keep you productive every day. A good night’s sleep, proper nutrition, and mental health support are all key to feeling productive all day long.
- Choose fair trade, organically sourced chocolate whenever possible.
The ultimate advice is to simply enjoy it. The more you savor it, the better!
A treat out of the productivity box
If you love the rich flavor of chocolate, you can also enjoy its brainpower benefits. This is yet another treat out of the productivity box 🙂
When feeling stressed, tired, distracted, or unmotivated at certain points in the workday, a couple of bites of dark chocolate can give you the pick-up you need.
Just remember to focus on quality and enjoy in moderation. If you find yourself reaching for a chocolate pick-me-up every day, consider other factors that may be affecting your brainpower.