Many things in life go better together. Like grilled cheese and tomato soup. Beer and baseball. Sunshine and a good book.
And now, a new study has found that a combination of two healthy (and tasty) foods—that I regularly enjoy—can improve your brain health.1
I’m talking about chocolate and berries.
The study involved 60 men and women, ages 50 to 75. They were randomly assigned to consume dried berries, cocoa powder, or a combination of both every day for 12 weeks.
The berry mixture contained dried red and black currants, raspberries, and blueberries. This mixture provided a daily intake of milligrams (mg) of anthocyanins—a type of antioxidant found in plants (particularly berries).
The cocoa group consumed 100 grams (g) daily (1 tablespoon) of cocoa powder, which provided 200 mg of flavanols (another type of antioxidant found in plants).
The researchers measured markers of brain health and cognitive activity in all of the participants both before and after the study. The participants also underwent a number of cognitive-function tests.
At the end of the study, participants who consumed either berries or cocoa showed improvements on their cognitive tests. But the improvements were most pronounced in the group that consumed BOTH cocoa and berries.
The researchers believe the anthocyanins in berries and the flavanols in cocoa work together in several ways to influence brain health, protect brain cells, and support cognitive function.
First, they think anthocyanins and flavanols promote those brain cells that are directly involved with forming and retaining memories.
Plus, the consumption of whole foods rich in flavanols improves various important brain functions. These foods have been shown to boost insulin sensitivity, blood sugar regulation, and blood flow to the brain—all of which improve brain performance.
That’s why I recommend including both berries and dark chocolate (with at least 70 percent cacao) in your diet.
Strawberries are an excellent choice to satisfy this recommendation, as I discuss above. Another good option is blueberry powder (together with other healthy ingredients like rose hips and baobab). That’s because, along with this study, other studies show blueberries can improve both short-term and long-term cognitive function and memory. You can even add fresh strawberries, blueberries, and cocoa powder to a serving of full-fat, plain yogurt (as I sometimes do).
1“Neurocognitive Effects of Cocoa and Red-Berries Consumption in Healthy Adults.” Nutrients. 2021 Dec 21;14(1):1.