Chocolate has been called many things by many different people but it is known as an antidepressant, tonifier, stimulant, euphoriant, and even aphrodisiac! What does science say?
Chocolate is exceptional high-energy food relative to its small volume. It is considered a food that promotes effort whether intellectual or physical. Chocolate’s chemical composition includes carbohydrates (starch, diverse sugars), fats (cocoa butter), and vegetable proteins. Minerals can also be found in chocolate: potassium and magnesium in large amounts, calcium and sodium in small amounts, and iron in trace amounts. Chocolate also contains vitamins A1, B1, B2, D, and E.
The pleasure derived from chocolate is believed to stimulate the secretion of endorphins, natural opiates. At least five pharmaco-dynamic (producing reactions in humans) substances are found in small amounts: Theobromine, Caffeine, Phenylethylamine, Anandamide and Serotonin.
Theobromine stimulates the central nervous system and the appetite, facilitates muscular activity, and has diuretic and a cardiotonic effect.
Caffeine increases resistance to fatigue, enhances intellectual activity, and increases watchfulness. The amount of caffeine in one chocolate bar is about a third of the caffine in a cup of coffee.
Phenylethylamine has a chemical structure similar to amphetamines and contains psycho-stimulating properties. Chocolate contains the highest concentration in any food of phenylethylamine, which is the chemical produced in the brain when a person is in love. Phenylethylamine combines with dopamine to produce a mild antidepressant effect. All of these stimulants increase the activity of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) in parts of the brain that control our ability to pay attention and stay alert.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (substance freed by the nerve endings) in the cerebral cortex. Its quantity is often found to be lower during certain nervous depression states. The serotonin found in chocolate helps correct its initial loss. Caffeine and saccharose stimulate the body's stimulation of serotonin.
Anandamide also affects brain chemistry to produce feelings of calm and well being. The effect is quite small but noticeable.
Research has proven that when people strongly crave chocolate, low-quality candy won't fix the craving. Very high fat, dark chocolate which transports plenty of cannabinoid cousins, along with natural opiate inducing cocoa butter is what they crave.
Chocolate contains more than 300 known chemicals
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