A Physiological Love Affair With Chocolate

It’s not breaking news that dark chocolate has many health benefits, including a high antioxidant content.

Science continues to prove the benefits for our bodies. But did you know that it could provide a similar boost for our brains?

There are plenty of reasons to love dark chocolate. Its total polyphenol and antioxidant content trounces other supposed “superfoods” like acai, pomegranate, cranberry, blueberry and whatever else is currently being marketed as the holy grail of health cures.

Not only is dark chocolate (in small portions) healthy, but it could also provide you with a brain boost anytime of the day when you feel in need. (The type of dark chocolate also matters — more on this in a moment.)

That’s because dark chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which you can think of as the cousin of caffeine.

Theobromine has stimulant properties, similar to caffeine. But unlike caffeine, theobromine does not affect the central nervous system.

In addition, the body takes much longer to clear theobromine from the body than caffeine, which leads to a longer and smoother stimulation. It’s also about 10 times weaker, which can eliminate the usual crash associated with caffeine.

Theobromine is also a vasodilator. It acts on the nerves in the veins, causing them to relax in order to allow more blood to flow.

Because of this effect, combined with its mild stimulating effect, theobromine has been noted to give people a “flow” — like feeling relaxed but with a strong focus.

And it’s in this body-mind connection where things get interesting …

How Chocolate Gives Your Brain a Boost

Dark chocolate also affects the brain by causing the release of certain neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the molecules that transmit signals between neurons.

When eating dark chocolate, the main neurotransmitter released in the brain is phenylethylamine. This tells the body to change your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

This change in blood pressure and blood sugar causes feelings of excitement, focus and elevated mood in the same way amphetamines (legal ones like ADHD meds, or illegal ones like cocaine or meth) do — but without the same extreme tolerance and addiction.

Phenylethylamine is also called the “love drug” because it causes your pulse rate to quicken, resulting in a similar feeling to when someone is in love.

Focus and an overall sense of well-being can be a fantastic combination to increase the efficiency of your performance at work, or in whatever you would like to perform better at.

What’s important to note is that not just any old dark chocolate will do. Beware of dark chocolate bars or powders out there with low concentrations of dark chocolate — those are usually filled with added sugar, fillers and other toxins.

I recommend only buying and consuming dark chocolate bars or powder which are at least 85% dark chocolate. Make sure you read the ingredient list for those culprits I just listed, because they could work to counteract the positive benefits of dark chocolate.

If you stick to these guidelines, having a moderate amount of dark chocolate a day (four normal-size squares) could provide you with a much-needed boost in brain power and performance.

Happy and healthy investing,

Brad Hoppmann


Uncommon Wisdom Daily

Your thoughts on “A Physiological Love Affair With Chocolate”

  1. Instead of “four normal-size” squares a day, why not tell us the proper number of ounces. I don’t know what a “normal” size square is – every such bar has a different number of squares and a different square size.

  2. I eat Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate, but it says that it is 54%, so I eat 1 and a half time the recommended to get the “chocolate effect”. Think this is OK?

  3. This has been my experience with dark chocolate but I was unaware of the biochemistry associated with consumption.

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