Health Corner

Low mood? Beat the blues with chocolate

By Archit Agarwal

There’s something magical in those dark squares, and they have nothing to do with your imagination. Benefits of dark chocolate. For one, they boost serotonin levels in the brain. Known as the feel-good hormone, serotonin plays a key role in combating anxiety and depression. Chocolate can also affect dopamine levels, thereby controlling the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Gone are the days of ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. Switch over to ‘a bite at night keeps you perfectly alright!’ Let’s dive a little further into the details.

Chocolate and serotonin

Chocolate is composed of many compounds. Of these compounds, an amino acid called tryptophan is found in chocolates with varying cocoa contents. Dark chocolate, ranging from 85% cocoa, contains the highest levels of tryptophan, while chocolates with cocoa content ranging between 70 and 85% contain small traces of this amino acid. Tryptophan helps improve mood by boosting serotonin levels in the brain.

While we don’t necessarily need reasons to eat chocolate, this reason is clinically proven. When you’ve had a rough day and just want to let go of how you’re feeling, you tend to gravitate toward your favorite bar of chocolate. The first bite of the chocolate hits your neurotransmitters right in the gut, automatically bringing more energy to your body – making you happier, calmer, or less anxious.

Still don’t believe us? Try a bite of this Mint Chocolate Fudge, and you’ll feel an immediate physiological change in your body.

Chocolate, dopamine, and endorphins

Studies show that eating chocolate actually improves your mood. How does this happen? Dopamine and endorphins are the body’s mood enhancers. Eating chocolate triggers a positive feeling in the body, often described as ‘euphoric’ – all thanks to these chemicals.

As mentioned previously, chocolate contains tyramine, which is derived from the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine and, like tryptophan, does some great things for the human body. Let’s understand dopamine first – it is a type of neurotransmitter and hormone that plays a pivotal role in many important body functions, including movement, memory, motivation, and pleasurable reward. Increase of dopamine in the brain tells you to get more of what has increased these levels in the first place. This influences the way we behave – we keep going back to the thing that makes us feel good, in this case, chocolate! This dopamine pathway can also help to explain the pleasure and joy you might feel after tasting that first bite after a long, hard day.

Suddenly have the urge to reward yourself? Treat yourself to these oozy Cadbury Silk Cookies!

Health Benefits of Chocolate

We’ve been saying it from the start – chocolate is the key to the heart, and it is extremely inclusive. Here are some other benefits that you could reap if you sow (a cocoa bean)!

  1. Chocolate acts as a powerful source of antioxidants, protecting your cells against free radicals that may be responsible for causing heart disease, cancers, and high blood pressure, to name a few. Studies show that high-flavanol cocoa can boost the flow of blood to the brain, improving attention, verbal learning, and memory in young adults. Flavonoids, found in chocolate, stimulate the lining of your arteries to produce nitric oxide, which reduces blood pressure. Consuming dark chocolate can also reduce your risk of high cholesterol. Read more about our Chocolate 101 post.
  2. Dark chocolate is highly nutritious and provides about 600 kilocalories of food energy – the perfect amount to get you through the day. It is a rich source of several dietary minerals. The list doesn’t stop there! It’s also a rich source of antioxidants, which penetrate your bloodstream to fight several diseases. Studies show that a 100-gram bar of dark chocolate contains 11 grams of fiber, 57% daily requirement of magnesium, 66% daily requirement of iron, 85% daily requirement of copper, and 196% daily requirement of copper!
  3. The good news isn’t over yet. Do you step out on a sunny day and remember that you haven’t had your daily SPF dosage yet? Don’t worry – chocolate’s got you covered. Flavonols, the bioactive compound found in chocolate, can also protect from sun damage, increase skin density, improve blood flow to the skin, and boost hydration. To get a little technical, the minimal erythemal dose (MED) is the least amount of UVB rays needed to cause redness to the skin, and 12 weeks of chocolate consumption can increase your MED, therefore protecting you from the sun. So next time you’re planning a beach vacation, bring a bar, or 10, of dark chocolate with you.

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