It is common to reach for a bar of chocolate when you are sad or displaying signs of depression. As such, there has always been some suspicion of a link between chocolate and your mood. There have been spates of studies recently that confirm the link between the two. More importantly, it has been conclusively determined that chocolate, mainly dark chocolate (see ref. 1) does in fact, help people in dealing with depression.
Depression is a serious condition of the mind that needs to be treated properly. However, chocolate can go a long way in the treatment. This is mainly due to the compounds present in chocolate.
The Compounds and Their Function
There are several compounds present in chocolate that have an impact on the functioning of the brain. Take a look at them below.
- Serotonin and Dopamine
Chocolate contains several compounds such as tryptophan, which play a role in the production of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These two chemicals, in turn, have a considerable effect on the overall mood of a person. Dopamine is capable of reducing the feeling of pain (see ref. 2) and helps you sleep. Serotonin can make you feel positive and even happy. As a result, chocolate helps you overcome the negative feelings associated with depression and start feeling better.
This chemical is present in chocolate in significant amounts. It is responsible for aiding in the production of endorphins. As you may know, endorphins act as painkillers, naturally produced by the body. With the release of endorphins, major symptoms of depression can be countered.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
These are particularly important chemicals present in chocolate as they are natural antidepressants. They are capable of slowing down the rate at which serotonin and dopamine is broken down by the body. As a result, your feelings of positivity and happiness last for a longer period of time.
Stress is a major contributor to depression. As such, reduction of stress (see ref. 3) can go a long way in getting rid of this condition. Again, chocolate is capable of providing relief from stress. It is capable of decreasing the levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. As such, you tend to feel a lot better after some chocolate, even if you were stressed.
Choosing the Right Chocolate
While chocolate is certainly beneficial for dealing with depression, you need to choose the right kind. After all, there are a few varieties. For the best results, you should avoid the white and the milk varieties of chocolates. They lack the benefits that can be provided by dark chocolate. In fact, dark chocolate has a higher concentration of all the compounds that are beneficial for controlling depression.
White and milk chocolates tend to have a higher concentration of fat and sugar. These can cause an energy surge followed by a crash, which impairs your body’s ability to function properly. Additionally, milk chocolate contains compounds which can inhibit the functioning of the antioxidants present in chocolate. As a result, they are never as beneficial as dark chocolate.
Tanya Sen quit her well-paying job to follow her dreams and become a writer. She is now creating and managing digital content to build relationships for organizations and individuals. An avid traveller, having visited more than 40 countries. She loves to cook and try different cuisines. She now lives in Goa, India.