It’s getting to be the end of winter and I cannot wait until spring is here with time spent outside, longer days, and sunshine. Unfortunately, we still have several weeks to go until we are in the clear and if you are like me winter can be a beatdown. I’ll admit it, with less sunlight and being stuck indoors I am moodier and get a little depressed around this time of the year.
So what can we do for a pick me up? Sure we can fly to the Caribbean for a week, but lets face it, we are normal and can’t just hop on a plane to escape our troubles. One savvy way I have found to increasing positive feelings is by eating chocolate! And no I am not recommending binge eating a bowl of chocolate ice cream when you get back from work. I’m talking about chocolate in it’s purest form, cacao. Cacao is the basis of all chocolate products and it is grown in tropical regions across the world.
There have been countless studies on the positive effects of chocolate. Some even go as far to call chocolate a love drug because the effects it creates are similar to falling in love. The molecules most responsible for increased positive mood are the following:
Anandamide: Known as the “bliss molecule”, it creates a feeling of euphoria. It is naturally created in your body while we are feeling great through exercise or happy states of well being, and the addition of the anandamide into the body can help spur that feeling on its own.
Serotonin: Medically documented to lead to feelings of well-being and happiness. Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. A deficiency of serotonin is often found in individuals with clinical depression.
Dopamine: Increases sensations of pleasure and enhances motor and cognitive skills. Found naturally in the body it helps regulate movement and emotional responses as a neurotransmitter.
Phenethylamine: A psychoactive stimulant that leads to increased mental drive/cognition and combats feelings of depression and anxiety. It also works in the body to naturally create the the chemicals listed above.
For centuries, humans have been combining cacao and milk to create chocolate. Typically you will see chocolate come in two forms, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. The main difference between the two is that there is a much higher percentage of milk in milk chocolate versus dark. Additionally, a lot of specialty dark chocolates they will say their exact percentage of the bar that is cacao. For instance Mindo Chocolate makes pure chocolate bars that come in three intensities of cacao, 67%, 77%, and 87%.
The percentage of cacao is key because the purer the chocolate is with cacao, the greater the benefits will be for you mood. You can also purchase the cacao in it’s purest form as nibs which is being popularized as a superfood, or as cacao tea which is pure cacao steeped in hot water. Cacao tea has the same effects as cacao but also increased theobromine which acts as a gentle stimulant. One company specializing in cacao tea is MiCacao.
No matter how you get you cacao in your system, just make sure you get some. Spring is right around the corner, but you might as well feel good know when the solution is within your control. Cheers to chocolate!