Here’s the news that will make everyone happy. Chocolate really can help mood. Why? It’s all thanks to those feel-good chemicals endorphins, the same ones that increase when we exercise.
Some researchers have even gone so far as to say the ‘high’ we get from chocolate is similar to that of eating foods laced with marijuana. That’s because your average bar of chocolate and an ounce or two or marijuana both contain a ‘fat’ known as anandamide - something the brain itself produces naturally - and which leads to the production of dopamine. Two ingredients found in chocolate actually help inhibit the natural breakdown of anandamide – meaning when you eat chocolate there is far more of this anandamide in the brain than at any other time. Tellingly, ‘anandamide’ means ‘bliss’ in Sanskrit.
Then there’s the serotonin link. This is a neurotransmitter in our brain which is linked to feelings of happiness and which, in turn, is triggered by the amino acid known as tryptophan. Another neurotransmitter you’ll find in your average square of chocolate or truffle is phenylethylamine. Boosting this will make you feel more alert and even excited. It actually makes your pulse race and which is why chocolate is often referred to as ‘the love drug.’
Choose quality chocolate with more than 70% cocoa content and it has the potential to boost antioxidants too, especially flavonoids, which are linked to heart health.
Of course, when chocolate wouldn’t have you jumping for joy is if you ate too much of it, the fat and calorie content is still high and you can easily put on weight if you overindulge. A third of a smallish bar, or two to three pieces a day, is just about right.
After that great news, why don't you make yourself a nice cup of hot chocolate? Try out this recipe!
Festive Hot Chocolate (Serves 1)
- 40 g dark chocolate (over 70% cocoa)
- 300ml coconut milk
- 1 tsp cacao powder
- Half a teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 tsp maple syrup
Melt the chocolate over a water bath. Add the coconut milk to a sauce pan and warm gently. Add in the melted chocolate along with cacao powder, cinnamon and maple syrup. Whisk together and serve.