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How do you take your chocolate? Science suggests that if you want to get healthy benefits from chocolate then it should be dark.

While we keep cutting out everything tasty that is linked to every disease under the sun, the one thing that isn’t slowing down in terms of consumption is chocolate.

Dark chocolate has been said to have some healthy benefits attached to it, similar to those to do with red wine, and has been a mainstay in kitchen cabinets and on dessert menus since time immemorial.

But what is it about dark chocolate, aside from the taste, that has got us hooked on the notion that it is healthy and good for our moods?

A recent study states that “it is a common belief that eating chocolate can improve mood states and make people feel good. Chocolate is often associated with emotional comfort. This effect seems to be linked to the capacity of carbohydrates including chocolate to promote this type of positive feelings through the release of multiple gut and brain peptides.” Ok so it gets a bit technical towards the end, but in layman’s terms that’s just a smart way of stating that when it gets digested in your stomach, it feels good. The term “comfort food” is also an important one here. And we’ll tell you why: 

When people are depressed, anxious, sad, or ‘in need of a hug’ food is normally what cheers them up, or what they use to quell their ill feelings. All too often we are marketed images of women, and most recently men, sullenly seated on the couch watching bad tv movies, and eating chocolate. This is because, and maybe through marketing the feelings have become more entrenched, eating sweet foods and overindulging in times of need is a way in which we improve our moods. We eat chocolate. We cry. We initiate a positive release.

The intake of sweet foods, and namely dark chocolate, has been related to the release of endorphins through what is inside of chocolate. A study found that tryptophan, which promotes the release of serotonin, the antioxidant resveratrol, and phenethylamine which is linked to having an anti-depressant effect can all be found in the properties of dark chocolate.

To expand on this, the response could be all to do with dark chocolate’s impact on the brain. Two studies “have reported acute cognitive effects of supplementation with cocoa polyphenols. Further exploration of the effect of chocolate on cognitive facilitation is recommended, along with substantiation of functional brain changes associated with the components of cocoa.” It’s all so interesting that the genome of cocoa was sequenced in 2008 so that we could found out more about it from a genetic point of view.  

Consumption of dark chocolate has also been linked to a more powerful memory, as research indicates that it has the ability to improve visual-spatial memory and organization, working memory, scanning and tracking, and abstract reasoning.

Since the time of the Aztecs, all the way through human history, dark chocolate has had a rich tradition of improving the mental states of people and being used as a means to destress and feel happier. Maybe it is because it is simply something sweet; but one thing is for sure: dark chocolate is here to stay and as it is used more frequently, its effects can be researched more closely.

For now, though, sticking to the mantra of eating dark chocolate to stay happier and healthier throughout your life is a good place to start. 

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nutrition diet chocolate

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