Why chocolate really does make you happy

September 26, 2014
David Thomas

Dark. Milk. White. In a hot frothy mug or wrapped in shiny foil. Chocolate in all its delicious forms makes our taste buds dance with delight. But that’s not the only reason to enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth luxury guilt-free.

A choc-economic recovery?

Our love of all-things chocolate is creating a very sweet market for retailers. According to Roy Morgan research , around one in two of us chomp down a few chocolate bars in any given month. For the record, Cherry Ripe is not only the nation’s oldest bar (dating back to 1924), it’s also the most popular choice – what’s your favourite?

Trick your brain into feeling great

Best of all, chocolate contains chemicals proven to make us feel good.

It turns out that in amongst the mint, truffle and fruit and nut flavours there’s a whole mixing pot of little known ingredients that get your brain excited while your mouth waters. Among them is tryptophan, an amino acid used to produce serotonin – a neurotransmitter that leaves us feeling happy.

If a failed romance sees you reaching for some rum-n-raisin it could be because chocolate contains the so-called ‘love drug’ phenylethylalanine. It’s the chemical responsible for the feeling of euphoria experienced when we meet that special someone. Maybe the Aztecs were right when they declared chocolate to be an aphrodisiac.

Interestingly, scientists believe that among long term couples, phenylethylalanine gradually gives way to the more sedate chemical oxytocin, which promotes feelings of contentment and comfort. So if your love life is losing its mojo, reaching for a box of soft centres could bring back the zing.

Chocolate’s feel good factor doesn’t end there. It turns out chocolate also contains theobromine, the stimulant responsible for ‘chocolate high’. And if that’s not enough, scientists in the US have discovered anandamide in chocolate, which can induce a similar high as cannabis.

More than soul food

If you’re starting to wonder why your favourite confectionery isn’t hidden under the counter, it’s because all these feel good chemicals present in chocolate are available in very small amounts. However we can all take heart that chocolate – more particularly dark chocolate, doesn’t just send you into orbit, it can have health benefits. Chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonoids believed to contribute to blood vessel and cardiac health.

Here’s more food for thought. In 2012, Beatrice Golomb, associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, presented research findings that showed adults who eat chocolate on a regular basis are actually thinner that those who don’t . So yes, you can enjoy the chocolate that happiness brings – guilt-free. We love your work Beatrice.

Still, it’s probably wise to eat chocolate only as part of a balanced diet. Dark on one day, white the next, milk chocolate the rest of the time. Enjoy.

What is it about chocolate that makes you feel happy? Share our blog on Facebook and Twitter and let others join the conversation.

 
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