Several years ago, I went to visit my brother who was serving in the Peace Corps in the mountains of Panama. Every morning, we began our day with a rich cup of some of Central America's finest coffee. That is, until we reached the San Blas Islands.
The San Blas are inhabited by the Kuna, a strongly knit tribe of Native Americans. Instead of coffee, the Kuna drink a beverage made with cocoa. And though they're probably not aware of it, the cocoa is rich in heart-healthy antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients. I was reminded of this when I read a recent study showing that the Kuna Indians who live on the mainland have a high incidence of heart disease and high blood pressure, while those who still live in the Islands (and consume this beverage daily) have an extraordinarily low incidence of those conditions.
Certainly there can be other dietary reasons why the Kuna living in cities have health concerns that the islanders do not. But this study strongly supports the results of other recent studies, including one published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition which showed that the consumption of cocoa caused a "striking blood flow response" to the brain and improved brain function.
The Journal of Clinical Nutrition study was sponsored by Mars Inc., the company that makes M&Ms, Snickers, and Twix. I have no problem with their research - but don't get the idea that a Snickers bar is going to do the trick. Besides being full of sugar, milk chocolate has very little cocoa. Instead, choose a high-quality dark chocolate - the more bitter, the better. Or buy a container of organic, unsweetened cocoa powder (NOW Foods makes the brand I buy). Mix it with water or milk and drink it several times a week. If you prefer it sweetened, add a few drops of stevia.
This article appears courtesy of Early To Rise, the Internet's most popular health, wealth, and success e-zine. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.earlytorise.com.