One of the most beloved flavors worldwide is chocolate. Nine out of ten people love this ultimate mood booster. For a connoisseur, just thinking of chocolate makes their mouth water. Likewise, seeing a young child’s face smeared with ice cream or birthday cake elicits a smile.
Mayan, Aztec, and other Mesoamerican cultures valued chocolate greatly; they used it in religious ceremonies and as an aphrodisiac. They drank cocoa before going to war for its energizing and mood-enhancing qualities. At times, it was also used as currency.
In addition to its fantastic taste, chocolate is considered a superfood with a reputation for its health benefits and mood-enhancing effects. Cacao beans “stimulate the brain to release neurotransmitters that can trigger emotions like euphoria,” explained Dixie Sandborn. These messengers tell the body how to act and feel:
- Phenylethylamine (PEA) is a chemical found in cacao that is also naturally produced in the body. PEA is an adrenal-related chemical that causes a person’s pulse to quicken; it improves focus and alertness. The brain releases this stimulant when a person falls in love.
- Tryptophan is one of the building blocks of serotonin, one of the brain chemicals linked to arousal.
- Anandamide is a little-known brain chemical. It is often referred to as the bliss molecule because of the role it plays in producing feelings of happiness and mental balance. It works by binding to the same brain receptors as THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.
- Theobromine acts similarly to caffeine. It helps relieve fatigue, has mild anti-depressive effects, and can produce a euphoric mood.
How to Celebrate World Chocolate Day
World Chocolate Day, July 7, allows people to indulge in their favorite sweet treat without feeling guilty.
A person could celebrate by baking brownies or choco-chip cookies. Then, take the time to share the chocolaty snacks with neighbors, especially the elderly or widowed.
Consider hosting a chocolate-themed party or potluck:
- Sundae Party: guests bring their favorite toppings to share.
- Dinner Potluck Challenge: every dish, from salad to dessert, uses a cacao bean by-product in its preparation.
- Cookie Exchange: participants bring a dozen cocoa-based cookies and the recipe for sharing.
- Meet with friends to bake chocolate chip cupcakes and take them to a homeless shelter.
If hosting a party is not appealing, perhaps visit a local bakery, ice cream parlor, or restaurant and indulge in some mood elevation.
Imagine curling up on the sofa with a significant other to watch a drama/romance movie like “Chocolat” or “Like Water for Chocolate,” while sipping homemade Mexican Hot Cocoa.
No matter how the day is celebrated, indulging in any form of chocolate will likely brighten the day.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Medical News Bulletin: How does chocolate actually affect your mood? By Lacey Hizartzidis
Michigan State University Extension: Chocolate science, history and fun facts – Part 2; by Dixie Sandborn
National Day Calendar: World Chocolate Day
Food Network: Mexican Hot Chocolate; recipe courtesy of Sandra Lee
Featured and Top Image by Shania Pinnata Courtesy of Unsplash – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of Marco Verch Professional Photographer’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image by Jessica Johnston Courtesy of Unsplash – Creative Commons License
Third Inset Image Courtesy of Isabelle Boucher’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License