Dark Chocolate Sets the Mood

The Mental Health Benefits of Consuming Dark Chocolate* 

We all have heard that dark chocolate can positively affect our physical health – it contains powerful antioxidants that improve brain, heart and immune health.  But during this month of love, we are taking a deep dive into the positive effects of dark chocolate on our mood. 

  • Get it flowing: the flavanols present in dark chocolate are known to increase blood flow to the brain, improving everything from memory to general functioning. 
  • Chill it out: after multiple anecdotal reports that people feel less stressed after consuming dark chocolate, researchers decided to investigate.  What did they find?  A significant reduction of the stress hormone, cortisol, immediately following the consumption of dark chocolate. 
  • Friends with benefits: there has been much talk of the microbiome in recent years – or the collective group of beneficial microorganisms in the digestive tract.

Research has shown a direct connection between the brain and the microbiome, sometimes referred to as the gut-brain axis.  These microscopic friends aid in maintaining a healthy immune system and positive emotional states.  The prebiotics present in dark chocolate feed the healthy bacteria in our gut, leading to improved emotional states in test subjects. 

  • Banish the clouds: a recent study of 13,000 adults showed that those who ate dark chocolate with a 70% cocoa content or higher, within 24 hours of the study, reported 70% less depressive symptoms than other groups.  The study was repeated with milk chocolate but without the same results, suggesting that the benefits did not come simply from the pleasure of eating chocolate, but from the naturally occurring antioxidants and vitamins concentrated in dark chocolate that increase the release of dopamine and other “feel good” chemicals in the brain. 
  • Beauty Sleep: dark chocolate has a high concentration of magnesium, an essential mineral that promotes deep and restful sleep.  Conversely, low magnesium levels are associated with depression and anxiety.  Magnesium also supports the body in producing and processing Vitamin D, another vitamin essential to good mental health. 

But how exactly can we reap the benefits of dark chocolate?  Doctors suggest eating a daily portion size of 20-30g (about 1 ounce) of chocolate with no artificial additives and with a minimum cocoa content of 70% - or as we like to measure it, a quarter pouch of smartBARK! 

*This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  Seek advice from a medical professional before making changes to your diet or health regimen. 

Sources: Johns Hopkins Medicine, Georgia State University, Cleveland Clinic, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Psychiatric Times, Medical News Today