“When no one understands you, chocolate is there.” – Daniel Worona
What are the secrets behind chocolate’s happiness-inducing magic? Maybe it’s not magic but science? Have you ever wondered why eating chocolate makes you happy?
For centuries, chocolate has been hailed as a source of joy and comfort. The mere thought of indulging in a piece of this delectable treat can bring a smile to one’s face. The answer lies in a fascinating interplay of science and our brain’s intricate chemistry. In this article, we’ll delve into the scientific fundamentals behind chocolate’s ability to evoke feelings of happiness and well-being.
“As long as there is chocolate, there will be happiness.” – Wayne Gerard Trotman
Secrets of chocolate’s happiness-inducing magic
It’s a solid scientific basis why chocolate can boost your mood and improve your health. Always choose dark chocolate, since it contains more actual chocolate and less sugar and other fillers that don’t affect your endorphins.
“Chocolate is happiness that you can eat.” – Ursula Kohaupt
The Power of Endorphins
Eating chocolate triggers the release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are neurotransmitters often referred to as the body’s “feel-good” chemicals. They bind to receptors in the brain, creating a sense of pleasure and reducing our perception of pain. This natural high is akin to the euphoria experienced after exercise, affectionately known as the “runner’s high.”
“Money can’t buy happiness. But, it can buy a chocolate, which is pretty much the same thing.” – Hanako Ishii
The Blissful Effect of Phenylethylamine
Phenylethylamine, often abbreviated as PEA, is a compound found in chocolate that acts as a stimulant. It’s a naturally occurring amphetamine that enhances focus, alertness, and mood. PEA stimulates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This surge of dopamine creates a sense of contentment and elation, contributing to the joy we experience when indulging in chocolate.
Serotonin: The Mood Regulator
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a pivotal role in regulating mood, anxiety, and happiness. Dark chocolate contains a precursor to serotonin, which means it provides the building blocks for the production of this “feel-good” chemical. When serotonin levels are balanced, it promotes feelings of well-being and contentment, further enhancing the happiness-inducing effects of chocolate.
“Everywhere in the world there are tensions – economic, political, religious. So we need chocolate.” – Alain Ducasse
Anandamide: The Bliss Molecule
Anandamide, aptly named after the Sanskrit word “ananda,” which means bliss, is a neurotransmitter that binds to the same receptors as THC, the active compound in cannabis. Although the levels of anandamide in chocolate are relatively low, its presence contributes to the overall sense of pleasure and relaxation experienced when consuming chocolate.
The Role of Magnesium
Chocolate, especially dark varieties, is a rich source of magnesium. This essential mineral plays a crucial role in regulating mood and reducing stress. Magnesium helps relax muscles, calm the nervous system, and improve overall well-being. Consuming chocolate can lead to a gentle increase in magnesium levels, contributing to a sense of relaxation and happiness.
The Comfort Factor
Beyond its biochemical effects, chocolate holds a special place in many cultures as a comfort food. The act of enjoying chocolate can evoke feelings of nostalgia, warmth, and coziness. These emotional associations further enhance the sense of happiness and well-being that comes with indulging in this beloved treat.
Chocolate’s therapeutic effects
The chocolate content has been extensively studied and is thought to be responsible for most of chocolate’s therapeutic effects via their multiple effects in the body, including:
- prevention of blood clots
- blood vessel dilation
- protection of nerve cells
- reduction of insulin resistance
- increased blood flow to the brain
- regulation of genes that control body weight
- inhibition of cancer growth
“My therapist told me the way to achieve inner peace is to finish what I start. So far I’ve finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.” – Dave Barry
Popular since the Aztecs time
The ability of chocolate to make you up has been widely known in Mesoamerica in pre-Columbian time. A Spanish soldier who was part of the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés tells that when Moctezuma II, emperor of the Aztecs, dined, he took no other beverage than chocolate, served in a golden goblet. Flavored with vanilla or other spices, his chocolate was whipped into a froth that dissolved in the mouth. No fewer than 60 portions each day reportedly may have been consumed by Moctezuma II in order to satisfy his many wives, and 2,000 more by the nobles of his court.
A word of caution:
Whatever you eat, chocolate or salad, eat with measure. Any food, without exceptions, can be healing or killing. Please remember the following:
- Excessive consumption of large quantities of any energy-rich food, such as chocolate, without a corresponding increase in activity to expend the associated calories, can increase the risk of weight gain and possibly obesity.
- Chocolate and cocoa contain moderate to high amounts of oxalate, which may increase risk for kidney stones.
The happiness-inducing magic of chocolate is deeply rooted in science. Its unique blend of compounds, including endorphin-boosting phenylethylamine, serotonin precursors, and mood-regulating magnesium, work in harmony to create a profound sense of pleasure and contentment. So, the next time you find yourself savoring a piece of chocolate and experiencing a surge of joy, know that it’s not just a mere coincidence—it’s the fascinating interplay between your brain and this delectable delight.