Mmmmmm… nothing is quite as satisfying as biting into a piece of chocolate. Smooth and creamy, its sweetness easily melts on your tongue, and its dark aroma fills your nostrils. The light bitterness lingers on your tongue, and you’re taken away to exotic places. Already, you’re in a better mood with that first quick bite.
Like most people, you know chocolate is delicious–what you may not know is that it actually can boost your mental health! It’s not just an illusion that eating chocolate seems to give you better focus and make you feel better. In fact, studies have shown that dark chocolate in particular, with its higher cacao content, can help boost your mental health. Read on to find out more!
Improve Your Memory and Recall
Some studies have shown that dark chocolate helps with your memory. When you eat dark chocolate, you may find that you are better able to remember what you need to at the right time. If you’re about to work on a task where you need to remember what you know, eating some dark chocolate may help. In fact, it may be the perfect snack for studying, helping to lock all those facts and figures in your brain.
Focus on Your Task at Hand
Dark chocolate may also help improve your focus. One reason for that improvement is it contains some caffeine, which can help wipe out any grogginess and get you focused on your task at hand. It also has other natural stimulants to wake up your brain, so eating a couple of bites before you need to concentrate may be just what you need to get down to business. It may even help out when you don’t get enough sleep, canceling out the drowsiness caused by not hitting the sack early enough the night before. If you’re feeling run-down, grab a few bites of dark chocolate instead of reaching for your mug of coffee
Some studies have shown a connection between eating chocolate and lowering stress. While this study found more benefits for women than men, it may be beneficial either way. To help reduce stress, try consuming 1-2 small pieces of chocolate each day, particularly on days you’re feeling high anxiety. You could also try eating it when you’re having a particularly stressful moment. Even if the chocolate doesn’t reduce your stress, just taking a moment by yourself to enjoy some chocolate is likely to calm you down!
While chocolate isn’t necessarily an antidepressant, it may help you to avoid depression over time. One study showed that adults who consume dark chocolate regularly (1-2 small pieces a day) are less likely to show signs of depression. What a tasty way to make yourself happier! However, that doesn’t mean you should chuck out your antidepressant to replace it with chocolate! If you’re currently on an antidepressant, it’s important to discuss the medication with your doctor if you want to wean off of it. Plus, while dark chocolate may be helpful, it likely won’t have the same effect as an antidepressant.
Boost the Brain-Heart Connection
Eating chocolate may help with the connection between your brain and heart, particularly if you’re older. The connection between the brain and heart is important as it helps keep your brain controls your heart’s function. Chocolate may help balance the brain’s function, which in turn, benefits the heart as well. In fact, issues with the brain, such as trauma, can lead to problems like heart attacks. Eating dark chocolate will not only help your brain, but it will also benefit your heart health as well.
Encourage Overall Brian Health
As we age, the brain deteriorates over time. This unhappy fact affects everybody, but you can do some things to help slow down your brain’s decline. Eating dark chocolate on a regular basis may play a part in delaying this type of damage to the brain. For one, it helps increase blood flow to the brain, which encourages brain health. When your brain is healthier and happier, you have better mental health overall, especially as you get older.
Why Dark Chocolate?
Dark chocolate has more flavanols than milk or white chocolate. Flavanols are a type of flavonoid that likely help your brain’s ability to function. Dark chocolate is also rich in antioxidants, also more so than white or chocolate. Antioxidants have a variety of health benefits, including lowering stress. In addition, dark chocolate may have anti-inflammatory properties, which may also help mental health.
What Kind of Chocolate Should I Look For?
Obviously, dark chocolate is the best. Aim for chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao, also labeled as 70% dark. This percentage or higher will have the most benefits for your health. Keep in mind, though, that you may not find this type of chocolate by the checkout in the grocery store. Venture back to the candy aisle where they keep the more interesting chocolates! You can also find this type of chocolate online.
When Should I Eat Dark Chocolate?
Some studies recommend eating a little bit of dark chocolate each day. For instance, you could consume 1-2 small squares of dark chocolate after dinner for a light dessert. This type of consumption works best for long-term health benefits. On the other hand, if you want the short-term benefits of dark chocolate, you can consume it as needed. For example, you could eat a few squares right before you do something you need to focus on. You could also eat a little bit when you’re feeling stressed.
Dark chocolate is still being studied for its benefits, particularly for brain and mental health. However, most current studies point to the benefits of dark chocolate when consumed in moderation. While it is high in calories and sugar, consuming small amounts of it in a day is not likely to pack on the pounds or be harmful to your diet. Eating a little bit of dark chocolate every day is likely good for your health, and it’s a tasty way to improve your mental health over time