The Chocolate Urge

Chocolate's Effects on the Brain

Ask people why they love chocolate, and chances are they’ll tell you it’s good. It smells good. It tastes good. And melting chocolate feels good in your mouth.

Where do these good feelings come from? The obvious answer is the chocolate, but there are some other factors at play, namely chocolate chemicals. Brains love chocolate and for good reason: Chocolate releases dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters in all the right regions of your brain.

Learn more about how melting chocolate affects your brain chemicals and brings you very real happiness.

Chocolate, Chemicals and Brains

Chocolate, chemicals and brains — they’re all related. When you eat chocolate, you’re consuming what you could call a magical food. Chocolate has almost 380 different compounds that profoundly affect your brain chemicals and produce good feelings, including:

  • Caffeine — Caffeine provides that spike of alertness you need to focus on the task at hand.
  • Theobromine — A vasodilator (a chemical that opens blood vessels) and stimulant, theobromine increases your blood flow. When your blood is flowing better, your mind is sharper and more focused. You’re also better able to hand stress.
  • Phenylethylamine — You can thank phenylethylamine for the release of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine provides you with motivations and feelings of pleasure, a great combination!
  • Serotonin and tryptophan — These two compounds probably sound familiar. Serotonin, another neurotransmitter, is featured in many mental health drug commercials. That’s because one way to fight depression and other mental health disorders is by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. It’s responsible for creating feelings of well-being and relaxation, as is tryptophan, the amino acid many believe is responsible for our after-thanksgiving napping.   
  • Anandamide — Another neurotransmitter, anandamide gets the pleasure receptors in our brains working.
  • Xanthines — Similar to caffeine, this milder, naturally occurring stimulant increases wakefulness.
  • Flavonols — Within a few hours after ingesting flavonols, blood flow to certain areas of your brain will be improved. The result of this increase in blood flow is similar to ingesting aspirin or another mild analgesic.

It’s easy to see why our brains crave chocolate, given the many different pleasure-inducing compounds that it contains.

The Best Way to Get Rid of Your Chocolate Craving

If there were a pill that contained all of these chemicals, taking it wouldn’t fulfill your chocolate craving. Researchers actually tried giving people just certain components of chocolate, including white chocolate and cocoa capsules. The result was not a very large decrease in cravings. The experience of eating chocolate is what really got rid of the craving.

That may be because we connect eating chocolate and feeling good during and after. Its texture, aroma and flavor are all important components of the experience. One study even found that by allowing chocolate to slowly melt in your mouth, you get the same large increase in heart rate and brain activity as you do when you passionately kiss your loved one. Best of all, those effects last longer with chocolate — four times longer!

When you have a chocolate craving, enjoy a piece and all the pleasure that will come along with it!

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