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Is Chocolate a Mood Booster?


Is Chocolate a Mood Booster?

We have just come from Easter, which is a time to be indulgent, with many of us gorging on heavenly white, milk and dark chocolate eggs.  Although they are delicious at the time, we often feel guilty afterwards for consuming so much chocolate and we vow to go on a detox or diet after Easter.  However, there is good news for chocolate lovers after all.  According to recent research, scientists have discovered that chocolate has some positive health benefits.  Dr Tara McMorrow, vice-president of the Irish Society of Toxicology and senior lecturer in bio-medical science in UCD says “The good news is that most of the bad effects of eating chocolate are either overstated or entirely false.  Eating chocolate neither causes nor aggravates acne.  Studies from the US have shown that eating chocolate (or not eating it) did not produce any significant changes in the acne conditions of the study’s participants.”

She added that “Cacao is the plant component which gives the unique taste and bitterness to chocolate. The chocolate mixture is made of mixtures of cacao and sugar, and globules of cocoa butter and milk solids.” “Chocolate contains small levels of serotonin which, along with theobromine, will enhance your mood.  Not only that, but it contains phenylethylamine, otherwise known as ‘the love drug’.  The neurochemical response to it is very similar to what you see when someone falls in love.  You get a surge in dopamine and serotonin that gives you a feeling of elation.  Some people have suggested that it is similar to the effects of marijuana”.

Some women crave chocolate a few days before, or during their period.  This could be because the change in hormones causes serotonin and dopamine levels to drop.  After eating the chocolate, the woman feels better so she equates eating chocolate to having a positive effect on her mood, which it does.  Milk chocolate is very high in sugar and doesn’t contain very much cacao,so it hasn’t the same results as dark chocolate.Serotonin also promotes the feelings of love, and lowers the feelings of aggression and depression in people.

Phenethylamine (PEA) is the chemical compound in chocolate which triggers the release of endorphins.  This acts as an anti-depressant, increases the libido and helps to achieve an orgasm.  Theobromine is a chemical similar to caffeine, but it is less stimulating on the nervous system.  There is almost 250 milligrams of theobromine in a 50g bar of dark chocolate.  Dark chocolate contains polyphenols which are antioxidants that can enhance cardiovascular and cellular health.

Bearing this in mind, be mindful of eating too much chocolate as it is high in fat and calories, which can cause weight gain.  Over indulging in sugar and fat can increase the risk of getting diabetes and hypertension.  Only half a bar of dark chocolate a week is beneficial for improving serotonin and promoting good cardiovascular health.

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