Turn on Happy Love Chemicals with Raw Chocolate.
There is indeed a decadent relationship between chocolate and love. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, our team decided to dig into some facts and benefits of raw chocolate as seen by science. But before that, a little on raw chocolate.
Raw chocolates are nutritionally superior than regular chocolates and offer a bounty of antioxidants, minerals and phytonutrients that are indigenous to raw cacao beans. Raw chocolate contains abundant polyphenolic antioxidants which research reveals have anti inflammatory properties, and in particular flavonols which improve blood circulation in key areas of your brain and keeps you focused. Keep in mind, cacao products which have been subjected to high temperatures do not provide as many flavonols as their raw counterparts.
That’s healthy sweet! But wait, there is more……
Chocolate and Love – A Science Connection
The presence of Phenylethylamines is one of the main reasons chocolate and love have such a deep correlation. Phenylethylamines (PEA) are present in our brain when we feel optimistic, happy, and attracted, and has been proven to alleviate depression, and also has a role in our ability to stay focused and alert. It is abundant in two foods, Raw Cacao and Blue Green Algae. Phenylethylamines are heat sensitive and therefore only found in truly raw chocolate. Phenylethylamines (PEA) levels are released in the brain when we are sexually aroused and peak during orgasm.
Anandamide / Cannabinoids
Raw chocolate contains a cannabinoid neurotransmitter called Anandamide, that contributes to the feel-good factor. Not many people realise that chocolate is one of the few plants besides cannabis to contain cannabinoids, as well as other molecules which cause our brain to accumulate cannabinoid chemicals. Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are the active substances in cannabis which are increasingly being found to offer therapeutic value in a multitude of diseases. Cannabinoids are likely responsible for the subtle psychedelic high raw chocolate consumers sometimes experience. (Roald Dahls’ Willy Wonka with his chocolate factory illustrates exactly the right kind of zaniness.)
Cacao contains MAO (Monoamine oxidase enzyme) inhibitors which prevent the breakdown of Anandamide, allowing for the secretion of serotonin, another neurotransmitter that is responsible for happiness and uplifting emotions. The word ‘anandamide’ is derived from the Sanskrit ‘ananda’ which means bliss. Anandamide appears to play a role in the regulation of mood, memory, appetite and pain perception. One study has found that Anandamide may be the chemical responsible for ‘runner’s high’, the eurphoric feeling people get when they do moderate to intense exercise. The researchers believe that the body releases Anandamides to help us cope with the stress and pain of exercise.
Magnesium – Why you crave chocolates at times?
Raw chocolates are one of nature’s richest source of magnesium, a mineral that usually gets low when we are stressed. This crucial mineral is found to be vital for healthy brain biochemistry, maintaining the fluidity of neuronal membranes and boosting brain power. The body concentrates 18 times more magnesium in the heart than in the bloodstream. Magnesium along with the antioxidants in cacao directly support heart health, not surprisingly we can often feel sensations in the heart after consuming cacao. Magnesium also relaxes muscles, increases alkalinity and is involved in 300 different detoxification pathways.
It is one of the most widely found deficiencies among people with a western diet. Studies reveal that different types of depression are associated with low levels of magnesium, and being low on it may also results in low energy levels, anxiety and agitation. This could be the reason why some people crave chocolate during times of stress/ anxiety, and also explains the instant boost in mood levels on biting into a piece of chocolate.
Methylxanthines and Theobromine
Did you know raw chocolate contains more than 300 chemical compounds that may influence your brain chemistry? Among them certain compounds have been identified to have specific effects that give you euphoria, a feel-good sensation or excitement. These include abundant Methylxanthines, compounds which act as a mild brain stimulant causing alertness and wakefulness. In particular chocolate contains Theobromine which acts as a stimulant and increases the size of blood vessels to allow for enhanced blood flow. It is the theobromine that acts in the brain to trigger the release of natural feel-good endorphins, neurotransmitters which make us feel romantic, loving, and aroused, and help us to fight pain and stress. Theobromine has been described as a medicine, used by herbalists for its stimulating effects on the heart and kidneys.
Throughout history chocolate has been known as an aphrodisiac. Chocolate opens the heart centre in physical and metaphysical ways, and plays an essential role in romance. Theobromine and Phenylethylamine (PEA) both produce dopamine which researchers believe to have found to cause a chain reaction of chemicals and hormones which cause women to be more interested in sex. Chocolate is also one of the best natural sources of arginine, an amino acid which acts in a similar way to Viagra.
Remember, before you next indulge in chocolate, that Raw Cacao and Chocolates are the best choice, as they are made of pure simple ingredients, are less processed, and contain less unhealthy sugars and fats. While science continues to unravel the effect of chocolate on brain and body alchemy, we are certain the more you know, the merrier it is to indulge in raw chocolate owing to the many ”feel-good” factors!