Can Chocolate Treat Anxiety? Separating Fact from Fiction.

Can Chocolate Treat Anxiety? Separating Fact from Fiction.

Heart palpitations, problems sleeping, nausea, shortness of breath, sudden weakness at the knees… Do any of these symptoms sound familiar?!

If they do, you might have symptoms of anxiety. The word “anxiety” is a general term for the symptoms resulting from our feelings of:

  • fear,
  • worry,
  • nervousness, or
  • apprehension.

Anxiety is the result of stress which then manifests itself in a number of real, and sometimes debilitating, symptoms.

In most cases, anxiety is a natural reaction to some stresses. However, excessive anxiety can become a problem and lead to more issues, such as depression, if something is not done about it.

Since anxiety is so common, we want to help you find easily accessible ways to treat your symptoms… So who doesn’t like, let alone LOVE, chocolate?!

Let’s dive into how and why chocolate can be a natural aid in treating some of your anxiety symptoms.

How Can Chocolate Treat Anxiety?

The main ingredient in chocolate that gives it its unique taste is cacao. But what makes it so great at treating anxiety?

  •  Chocolate is rich in antioxidants.

flavanolsOne of the contributing factors of anxiety is the presence of free radicals in the body. These are caused by the incorrect molecular bondings resulting from environmental factors. Factors including pollution, herbicides and even cigarette smoke.

Antioxidants help protect the body against the effects of free radicals by correcting these molecular bondings. Because antioxidants are stable, they suffer no ill effect and thus cause no harm during this process.

Dark chocolate is loaded with compounds like polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins. These are biologically active and function as antioxidants. Luckily for chocolate lovers, there is a growing body of research that indicates a direct correlation between antioxidants and anxiety.

  •   Chocolate has a lot of magnesium.

Magnesium plays a vital role in body function. Shortages of magnesium result in a range of different symptoms, such as heart disease, digestive problems, arthritis, and stress-related illnesses – including anxiety.

magnesium for anxietyConstant stress leaches the body of its magnesium. Magnesium calms your nervous system and prevents excessive cortisol from being produced. Constant stress, however, depletes these calcium reserves, which leads to more stress and thus heightened anxiety levels.

The high magnesium levels found in chocolate gives our bodies a much-needed magnesium boost.

  •   Chocolate contains cannabinoids.

Research indicates that cannabinoids may play an important role in helping those with anxiety. Chocolate contains two cannabinoids, N-oleoylethanolamine and N-linoleoylethanolamine.

Those cannabinoids play a role in your brain’s anandamide production (similar to the THC found in marijuana). Anandamide is a neurotransmitter and is known as the “bliss molecule” and thought of as the body’s version of THC.

  •   Chocolate may help increase serotonin production.

Chocolate is high in tryptophan, the key ingredient in serotonin. Serotonin plays an important role with regards to memory, libido, digestion, behavior and mood. Low serotonin levels may account for anxiety.

What Type of Chocolate is Best?

can chocolate treat anxiety?There are three types of chocolate: white, milk and dark. Unfortunately, they do not all have the same benefits. So, which chocolate can treat anxiety the best?

White chocolate does not contain the cocoa component that is necessary for chocolate’s benefits and milk chocolate only has a small cocoa percentage. Therefore, dark chocolate for the win!

Dark chocolate has the most potential health benefits because it has the highest percentage of cacao. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the better!

Some people may have a concern about the fat content in chocolate, but this is not much of a problem.

The saturated fat in chocolate is stearic acid, which does not raise your cholesterol, while the monounsaturated fat is oleic acid, which may actually reduce cholesterol.

How Much Chocolate is Good for You?

Can chocolate treat anxiety? The information stated above gives strong evidence that, yes it can.

However, while chocolate may indeed prove to have benefits when it comes to helping you with anxiety, please do not think that it alone will help with the problem. The first step to managing anxiety is to determine its source and address it.

Moderation is key.

Chocolate and chocolate-laced treats can be high in sugar – even dark chocolate ones – and it also contains caffeine, so don’t consume in excess. The recommended serving size for dark chocolate is approximately one ounce per day.

Your sweet tooth might make you decide to eat a week’s worth of chocolate at once, but control your chocolate craving! Eat a little a day, or every other day. The choice is yours.

What’s your favorite dark chocolate bar or recipe? How do you control your chocolate cravings and serving size? Please feel free to leave a comment below to share with the community!