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Benefits of Dark Chocolate To Our Mental Health

Effects of dark chocolate for our Mental Health

I recently came across a fact that really surprised me a lot. The country of Panama observed around 119 deaths per 100,000 people during the period of 2000-2004 due to cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, heart attacks and heart failures. Whereas on the same time span, at an island close to Panama in a tribe known as Gunayala, just 8 people died for every 100,000 people due to the diseases. 

This basically means that the death rate of Panama is 14.8 times higher than the island in the same time frame. The reason for this magic? Well, the people of this island have been consuming cocoa on a regular basis since centuries. 

This post is going to be about how dark chocolate improves our mood, our stress levels, and its beneficial antioxidant properties. In today's fast-paced world, stress is a very common factor that cuts down on our life expectancies. Stress, depression, and a lack of motivation are major factors why many turn to psychoactive agents and drugs to feel better. 

This is why today's world calls for something healthy that helps to boost our energy and release our stress, be it in the form of green vegetables, exercise, or something even better, dark chocolate. Well, dark chocolate is an amazing, understated product. Historically, it was considered the food of gods by ancient Mesoamericans.

To them, dark chocolate was gifted to humans to heal the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. But what does science say about it? Well, that's why we're here. Chocolate is bad, but dark chocolate with at least 85% cocoa or more has proven to have some amazing health benefits. Usually, chocolates that are sold on shelves are dutched chocolate. 

Dark here means that the cocoa content in the dark chocolate is quite literally stripped off, additional sugars are added, and it also contains a lot of saturated fats and calories whereas dark chocolate is bitter. Now, if you find it difficult to understand which one is which, generally, chocolates that are bitter in taste are good for your health. The more the bitter, the more the better. 

Researchers recommend having dark chocolates with at least 85% cocoa or more. Dark chocolate contains a lot of essential minerals, amino acids like tryptophan, and some naturally occurring substances like polyphenols, caffeine, and theobromine that have some very unique health benefits. 

Ways by Which Dark Chocolate Improve Your Modes and Relieve Your Stress 

Now, let's get straight into the topic and let's talk about the three important ways by which dark chocolate improves our mood and relieves our stress.

As a bonus towards the end of the post, we'll suggest you a few tips on how you could include dark chocolate in your diet, so make sure to read the post till the end. 

1. Dark Chocolate Contains Essential Minerals That Help To Boost Our Mood 

Cocoa beans, the main ingredient in dark chocolate, happen to be one of the top seven foods on the planet that are rich in magnesium. And magnesium, if you didn't know, happens to be an essential mineral when it comes to calmness. 

Magnesium a naturally occurring relaxant that helps to deactivate adrenaline. A study conducted by Dr. Behnood Abbasi and his team discovered that magnesium supplements relax human bodies to such an extent that their supplementation has proven to be effective in patients with insomnia. Not that a dark chocolate drink will knock you to sleep, but it does go a long way in helping your body relax and easing your mind.

Magnesium Deficiency It is quite important to note that magnesium deficiency is quite common and a decrease in magnesium levels could lead to insomnia, muscle twitching, anxiety, and palpitations, which are all signs of stress. The magnesium present in dark chocolate is a great way to keep anxiety out of sight and reduce irritability. Magnesium is just one such compound found in dark chocolate that helps with lightening our mood. 

There are many other minerals found in dark chocolate that help with our mood such as iron, zinc, and copper. 

2. Dark chocolate contains essential amino acids that help to lower stress

Dark chocolate contains a very important amino acid known as tryptophan. Tryptophan is a precursor to two naturally occurring wonderful compounds in our body, serotonin and melatonin.

Serotonin, nicknamed as the feel-good neurotransmitter, is a mood stabilizer that controls well-being and happiness. And fun fact, if you didn't know what some antidepressants do, well, they simply increase the serotonin levels available to our brain cells. Not only does dark chocolate help to increase serotonin levels in the body, but it also boosts the production of melatonin. 

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone present in our body and it is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain in response to darkness. It helps to control the circadian rhythm of the body and it basically acts as a chemical messenger that signals our brain to decrease the activity levels and get ready to sleep. This is the reason why you feel calmer and less anxious after consuming dark chocolate.

It is important to note that tryptophan is heat-volatile and therefore non-existent in cooked chocolate, making raw chocolates the best way to obtain dietary tryptophan. The combined effects of serotonin and melatonin acting on our body are one of the major reasons why dark chocolate helps to reduce our stress and in long-term use cases, even prevents stress also. 

3. Dark Chocolate Contains Important Antioxidants That Help Us To Relax 

Dark chocolates are one of the richest sources of flavonoids, a type of polyphenol found in cocoa.  Flavonoids are antioxidants that have been shown to reduce oxidative stress in us. But how does this translate to reduced stress levels? 

In a recent study done in Brazil by Dr. Clarissa M, her team found out that levels of stress directly relate to the oxidative activity in the brain. By reducing the levels of oxidative stress in the brain, the stress levels of these test subjects were also reduced.

Also, dark chocolates are rich in flavonoids which enable the brain to handle oxidative stress in a much more efficient manner. But things don't end here. Flavonoids have other roles too. 

Flavonoids have proven the effect of increasing the levels of nitric oxide in the blood vessels. Nitric oxide is a natural vasodilator which causes our blood vessels to relax and this increases the blood flow especially towards the brain and the muscles, which causes overall relaxation of the body and the mind. If that wasn't convincing enough, the flavonoids found in dark chocolate are extremely potent anti-inflammatory agents, with known mechanisms beneficial for brain and cardiovascular health.

It has also been proven to increase the cognitive function of our brain. Also, consuming dark chocolate on a regular basis decreases the circulating levels of cortisol and epinephrine, both of which are associated with stress.

The three points that we discussed here are the most prominent mechanisms by which dark chocolate boosts our mood and helps to reduce stress levels. 

New studies are always on the lookout for other methods on how dark chocolate effectively helps our mental well-being. Dark chocolate benefits many other organ systems and more than just our moods. It also helps with productivity and other functions as well.

In this post, we have just focused on how it benefits our mental health. If you'd like to know more about how dark chocolate affects our other systems, let us know in the comments below. If you like shakes or prefer having dark chocolate in the form of a drink, let me show you how you can create a relishing drink.

You can make a dark chocolate shake using 85% cocoa powder without adding additional flavors or sugar. Add skimmed milk of your choice and a teaspoon of peanut butter. If you like cinnamon powder, vanilla extract or even a bit of honey, add them in. 

Blend it well and top it off with some nuts. This should fill your cup with calmness and help you feel at ease. Having this unsweetened drink daily could boost your productivity throughout the day and if you are prone to anxiety and stress episodes, this drink will definitely make a difference in your routine.

If the drink proves too much of a task for you or if you are a person on the go all the time, a simple dark chocolate bar would do the trick for you. We would love to know how dark chocolate has made a change in your life.

Don't let the bitterness of dark chocolate keep you away from its benefits. So, the next time you are looking for a natural way to improve your mood, remember to reach out for some dark chocolate. That's all from this post. 

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