Just as physical health helps our body to stay strong and smart, mental health also helps our body to increase productivity and to control the stresses of life. Therefore, it is really important not to avoid mental and emotional issues as positive mental health not only provides a sense of contentment but also makes a person flexible enough to learn new skills, maintain perfect relationships, and be creative and enjoy life.
In some societies people still believe that the only treatment option available for mental health problems is a medication with a huge list of adverse effects, however, various steps can nurture our mental health including, a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and getting physically active. Healthy snacks like nuts and chocolate not only improve mood or concentration but also helps in ADD treatment and therapies for other serious mental illnesses by improving brain functioning. Mentioned below is how chocolate can help in improving mental health.
Flavonoids in Chocolate
A recent review published in May 2017, researched the flavanols and its effect on the brain function. Flavonoids are plant nutrients that are found incorporated not only in chocolate but in many fruits and vegetables, red wine, and tea. Flavonoids are believed to possess anti-viral, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, and antioxidant properties that help in improving memory by increasing the brain oxygen level and blood flow, ultimately increasing the electrical activity of the brain. According to a 2011 study, flavanols found in cocoa have a positive impact on the psychological processes and effectively prevent age-related cognitive dysfunction.
Chocolate contains Neurotransmitters
Chocolate can affect our body’s nervous system in various ways, one of them is causing the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters assist in conveying signals between neurons. Chocolate helps in releasing various happy neurotransmitters in the brain such as endorphins, serotonin, and other opiates. They trigger certain emotions and effectively reduce stress and decrease pain, this is the reason why chocolate is known to be comfort food. Endorphins help in alleviating depression as they act as sedatives and provide a feeling of pleasure and happiness.
Serotonin is also known as a happy chemical as it efficiently regulates mood and contributes to wellbeing, therefore, deficiency of serotonin leads to depression and other kinds of mental illnesses. It is thought to regulate the sleep cycles of the body as it is a precursor of melatonin. It further plays a role in balancing the appetite, cognitive functioning, anxiety, and emotions. Thus, serotonin is known as an anti-depressant.
Another unique neurotransmitter found in chocolate is phenylethylamine also known as chocolate amphetamine that modulates the blood sugar levels as well as blood pressure levels that lead to the feeling of alertness, awareness, and excitement. Phenylethylamine increases the pulse rate drastically therefore, it is also known as a love drug. It produces the feelings to when someone is in love, therefore, chocolate is shared as a symbol of commitment and love.
Feeling of Euphoria
A study published in 2013, revealed that chocolate alters the mood and make a person more content and calm. Chocolate contains various psychoactive ingredients that act similarly as the cannabinoid that produces a feeling of euphoria. Anandamide is one of the unique compounds found in chocolate that generates the production of dopamine that leads to a feeling of elation.
Prevent Brain from damage
The ingredients incorporated in chocolate assist in increasing the blood flow to the brain that ultimately results in better brain functioning like prolonged attention span, the capability of solving problems and performing various tasks, increased reaction time, and enhanced memory. These benefits help older people in controlling mental decline and managing their short-term memory.
The brain needs around 20 percent of the oxygen taken up by the lungs that explain the brain being vulnerable to radical damage. This damage occurs more at a cellular level inside the brain and causes aging of the brain cells, thus, eating chocolate can help in neutralizing the radical damage as it consists of antioxidant properties and helps in the proper functioning of the brain as well as boosting memory, learning, and feeling of euphoria.
It is quite interesting that snack food like chocolate has such strong effects on the brain and the human body. Eating chocolate not only makes a person elated and sane but also keeps the brain active and healthy. Therefore, there is a wide list of reasons why people should incorporate chocolate into their healthy snack diet to obtain its soothing yet euphoric effect.