Dark chocolate (70% or higher cocoa content) is the food item I would choose for my stranded on a desert island staple. I absolutely love it and eat at least 3 ounces a day with great pleasure. Chances are you might share my love, or at least find dark chocolate very satisfying. Have you heard about its possible health benefits as well? Perhaps you’ve read that it helps lower blood pressure, reduces your appetite or helps your skin look better. I am not going to defend, explain or debunk any of these potential benefits. What I will do is tell you about how dark chocolate may be part of a healthy hearing diet. I am all in for that!
Note that I wrote “may” be part of a healthy hearing diet. The truth is, there is not a definitive healthy hearing diet yet; but, there are lots of studies I can point you to that you may find useful in your quest for better hearing health.
At Chicago Hearing Care, patients often ask Dr. Ullauri if it is possible to prevent or avoid hearing loss. That is a complicated question. Of course, you absolutely can and should protect your hearing by limiting potential exposure to loud noises when possible, and wearing proper ear protection. Most often, though, age, genetics, health habits, and illnesses play a part in hearing loss. However, there are several interesting studies that show that a healthy diet can help limit, and perhaps slow the extent of a hearing loss. Is there enough evidence to promise results right now? The jury is still out. What we can say at present is: eat healthily, supplement with some minerals, and you may reduce your susceptibility to a greater degree of hearing loss than you might otherwise have had. At a minimum, taking care of your hearing with a healthy diet can’t hurt! Here are some ideas from current studies (with my favorite idea first):
1. Eat Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate contains zinc, and studies show that zinc helps patients with sudden hearing loss. These results, in addition to the general immune boosting properties of zinc, are leading some experts to suggest that foods containing zinc belong in a healthy hearing diet.
2. Eat Other Foods Rich in Zinc: Oysters, beef, port, dark-meat chicken,cashews, almonds, peanuts, beans, split peas, and lentils fit the bill nicely.
3. Up Your Folate and B-12 Intake: It is a fact that folic acid helps your body to begin new cell growth. Further, numerous studies* using humans and mice link deficiencies in folic acid levels to age-related hearing loss problems. More definitive studies are needed to clarify the exact linkage and how to use the information, but for now, try to eat liver if you enjoy it, as well as spinach, asparagus (yum), broccoli, and vegetarian baked beans. If your doctor or nutritionist directs you to supplement with B-12, your ears might thank you for it.
4. Load up on Magnesium Rich Foods: This suggestion is for those of you who are exposed to very loud noise levels on a regular basis, either through your occupation or your down-time pursuits. Firefighters, construction workers, and concertgoers take note: Studies have shown that magnesium can protect the ears from damage due to harmful noise exposure. Clinical trials are underway to see how much protection is possible for human hearing. Magnesium rich foods include bananas, potatoes, and artichokes, and none of these are in the terrible/yuk/must avoid categories for most adults. I can tell you I never turn down any dish containing artichokes.
5. Go Fishing: Or just eat omega 3 fat and Vitamin D rich fish like tuna, salmon, trout, and anchovies. Researchers have found that omega 3 fats and Vitamin D help the circulation in your inner ear, and that eating these foods may slow age-related hearing loss. I happen to love all of the above-mentioned foods: with trout being my favorite and anchovies on my Caesar salads a close second. For the record, though, I like most foods, so, not a fair test. If you do not like fish, maybe your doctor or nutritionist can advise you on a supplement. I know they are available, and recommended for many health benefits beyond your hearing health.
Here’s to healthy eating and good hearing health. We all know that fried foods, foods containing saturated and trans fats, and too many sugary treats are not good for us. The foods highlighted above will enhance your diet and your hearing health. The following dark chocolate bark recipe is simple and allowed in reasonable 3 ounce daily doses so enjoy!
Dark Chocolate Bark with Almonds and Ginger:
1 cup chopped roasted almonds
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 lb. bittersweet (70% cacao), chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Coarse salt to taste
1. Line a 9 x 13-inch rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper or use a Silpat liner.
Spread the almonds evenly on the sheet.
2. Melt the chocolate and the oil in a microwave at 50% power, using 30 second intervals, stirring well after each interval. It is important not to burn the chocolate. Scrape the sides of the bowl as you go. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, stir in the vanilla extract and the ginger.
3. Slowly pour the mixture onto the cookie sheet over the almonds and spread with a spatula. Sprinkle with salt.
4. Refrigerate for at least an hour to set the chocolate.
5. Break or cut into pieces to serve. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. If the room is cool, room temperature is fine for storage.