We’ve all experienced it! That moment of bliss that good chocolate brings when we first bite into a square of chocolate. Close your eyes and savour the moment! But can chocolate really make us happy? I personally think it does! Some of the main ingredients in chocolate have a mood-enhancing effect on us. Tryptophan is one of them. Our bodies use tryptophan; an essential amino acid the body needs to produce serotonin, a mood-elevating substance. The body cannot make tryptophan itself and so it has be obtained through our diet.
The sugar in the chocolate also plays an important part in this. Stimulating the release of insulin speeds up the journey of the tryptophan to the brain where upon arrival gives us a feeling of wellbeing, even euphoria. In addition to a caffeine-like component called, theobromine, chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a natural antidepressant. It can also help promote oxytocin, the same substance released by the body when we fall in love.
Chocolate also contains the lipid neurotransmitter, anandamide, which also occurs naturally in the brain. Taken from the Sanskrit word 'ananda', meaning bliss, this activates messengers in our brain cells, much like THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis sativa. It boosts dopamine production increasing feelings of happiness and elation. Chocolate contains antioxidants that help support our body’s response to inflammation, a condition linked to the onset of depression.
Chocolate has proven to be one of the best food sources of magnesium. Magnesium is an important mineral that promotes calm in the mind, encouraging the body to relax. Because these substances are only present in chocolate in quite small quantities, experts don’t agree on their direct mood-elevating effect.
The pleasure derived from eating chocolate can largely be attributable to psychological factors. Chocolate can make moments happier, oftentimes evoking pleasurable memories! For a great number of people, these reminiscences can be overwhelmingly positive.
Chocolate was eaten at celebrations, like birthdays, Christmas, at Easter and even for Halloween ‘treats’. Lovers traditionally gift heart shaped chocolate boxes on Valentines Day!
Memories that include chocolate give rise to an agreeable feeling of happiness and bliss. Whether the chocolate-induced mood uplifting elements are produced by particular active ingredient, or more psychological, doesn’t matter.
The most important message is this; Chocolate indeed can make us happy!
Take a look at our friend Sarah Routmans site www.laughhealthy.com to explore more