What do you do when you’ve had a bad day? You reach out for your favourite bar of chocolate, bite off a piece, close your eyes and savour that moment. You feel so much better and happier after that bite of chocolate, don’t you? Sinking your teeth into a piece of rich chocolate offers more than just instant gratification to your tastebuds, it can be a mood-boosting experience too.
We associate chocolate with happy moments. It also evokes memories, like back in our childhood, eating chocolate during the festive seasons. Or receiving your first box of chocolates for Valentines Day. These delightful memories are awakened by that familiar taste of chocolate, making that moment very special. Have you ever wondered why that happens?
Chocolate has been called the ‘love drug’, the ‘happiness drug’ and the ‘pleasure drug’ and there’s a reason to it. It contains numerous ingredients, chemicals and compounds that have been known to affect the brain and body in a myriad of pleasurable and positive ways. Let’s take a look at the science behind chocolate.
Theobromine, also known as xanthosis, is the star in dark chocolate. It’s a stimulant with a similar structure to caffeine. It increases heart rate and blood flow, lowers blood pressure, enhances performance, and improves your mood.
Anandamide, also known as N-arachidonoylethanolamine, is a fatty acid neurotransmitter, an essential omega-6 fatty acid. Originating from the Sanskrit term ‘ananda’, it means joy or bliss because of its mood stabilizing properties.
Phenylethylalanineis an organic compound and natural monoamine alkaloid informally called the molecule of love. It promotes feelings of attraction, excitement and nervousness and is associated with the initial euphoria of falling in love.
Sugar sends a chemical message to the brain when it hits our tastebuds. It triggers the release of chemicals normally associated with rewards and pleasure. The most well-known of these is dopamine, but there are also many other chemical changes that all contribute to the pleasing sensation we get after eating sweet things. It’s no wonder we crave it.