Chocolate is a fantastic food for your brain! In a study funded by the Mars, Inc., the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco found that the flavonols found in chocolate and cocoa increase blood flow to the brain. The anandamide in chocolate alter the mental state of the one consuming it. Anandamide comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “bliss”. Quite simply, chocolate makes you feel good.
Another compound found in very small amounts in chocolate is phenethylamine (PEA). PEA stimulates the nervous system and triggers the release of endorphins. This is the same kind of “high” you get when you exercise. The PEA also works on the neurochemical associated with sexual arousal and pleasure which backs up our idea that chocolate maybe an aphrodisiac.
Chocolate gives you a boost of serotonin into your brain when it is consumed. It helps to relax you which can stave off depression and help you to sleep well. Women have constantly reached for chocolate during their menstrual cycle when serotonin levels are lower due to normal hormonal fluctuations. Something we knew all along, chocolate lifts our spirits!
Chocolate also contains Theobromine which is a naturally occurring substance similar to caffeine. Theobromine affects the brain by increasing alertness, the ability to concentrate and cognitive functioning. When you want chocolate, you have to have chocolate. There is no substitute!
In research conducted by Daniele Piomelli, his group found that there are three compounds of chocolate that enhance a person’s feeling of pleasure or well-being. All of which confirm what people have know for centuries, chocolate makes you feel better when you are a bit blue. Piomelli advises to be sure that your choice is either dark chocolate or cocoa as they contain two to three more times as many compounds as those found in milk chocolate.
Another element present in cocoa, and therefore chocolate, is tryptophan. Tryptophan is a natural chemical that we usually associate with turkey and Thanksgiving. This is another mood enhancer similar to serotonin. The presence of tryptophan in the brain is necessary for serotonin to be released in the brain. Your body’s tryptophan reacts with both vitamins B3 and B6 with magnesium to create serotonin. More serotonin in your body allows you to be more relaxed and less stressed. So have your hot cocoa before you go to sleep. It will help you become more relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep! So now you have proof that it’s completely acceptable to get your daily intake of dark chocolate or cocoa!