Cacao flavonoids seem to be good for the brain. According to a review, they may encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in memory and learning. They may also stimulate blood flow in the brain. Some research also suggests that the flavonoid component of chocolate may reverse memory problems in snails. Scientists have yet to test this in humans.
However, a study in humans also supports the brain-boosting effects of dark chocolate. The researchers used imaging methods to look at activity in the brain after participants ate chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao. The researchers concluded that eating this type of dark chocolate may improve brain plasticity, which is crucial for learning, and may also provide other brain-related benefits.
Like dark chocolate, many berries contain flavonoid antioxidants. Research suggests that these may make the berries good food for the brain. Antioxidants help by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. The antioxidants in berries include anthocyanin, caffeic acid, catechin, and quercetin.
A review notes that the antioxidant compounds in berries have many positive effects on the brain, including:
- improving communication between brain cells
- reducing inflammation throughout the body
- increasing plasticity, which helps brain cells form new connections, boosting learning and memory
- reducing or delaying age-related neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline
Antioxidant-rich berries that can boot brain health include: