How often do you find yourself reaching for a piece of chocolate when you are sad or feeling blue? You’ve seen the movie scenes where the girl breaks up with the guy and sits on her couch with a pint of chocolate ice cream. Is there any validity to the idea that chocolate can really lift our spirits or is this a myth?
It isn’t just chocolate that we seek. Emotional eating is a real thing. Yes, food is needed for our body to run. It’s the fuel the body needs like a car needs gasoline. But it also impacts our brain. When our mind tells us that we are sad or depressed or anxious, it may send us reaching for something to boost our mood and get us out of the doldrums. We seek comfort and that can come from the things we think of as “comfort food.” Chocolate is one of the most popular go-to foods and for a good reason.
Here are some ways chocolate might give your mood a bit of a boost:
Chocolate provides serotonin and tryptophan.
Serotonin is the key hormone that can stabilize our mood. It can increase our feeling of well-being and happiness. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which plays a role in the production of serotonin. These are the neurotransmitters that can influence your mood. There is a lot of research that concludes that a serotonin deficiency may be connected to the symptoms of what we call mood disorders.
Chocolate is high in carbohydrates which helps increase the amount of tryptophan that gets to your brain. If tryptophan increases serotonin, and serotonin lifts your mood, the obvious connect to chocolate is made.
Chocolate brings up happy memories.
Most of us experienced the joy of getting a piece of candy as a kid. Chocolate was a big treat – Halloween candy we collected in our costumes, chocolate Easter Bunnies we ate ears first, a candy bar that was our favorite. Chomping down on a piece of chocolate might bring back some of those happy moments and, at least for a bit, make us feel happy. Have you ever opened a chocolate bar wrapper to have just the smell cheer you up? Sometimes, that’s all it takes to tell your brain that everything is alright.
Chocolate can cut hunger.
A little piece of chocolate might be enough to stop that craving in its tracks. Many of us like that little hit of sweetness after a savory meal or need a little boost of energy in the middle of a long workday. Chocolate can provide that boost.
Chocolate can work as an anti-inflammatory.
There are studies regarding the link between mood disorders and inflammation.
Inflammation exists in more than half of the cases professional mental health care providers see with mood disorder cases, and more than 80 percent of people suffering with inflammatory diseases also experience some kind of mood disorder.
Chocolate is rich in flavanols which are known for their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties. This is why your pain symptoms from a mood disorder might seem to lessen after eating some chocolate.
Mood disorders that you may be experiencing:
At Advantage Mental Health Center in Pinellas County Florida, our licensed professionals can help you navigate the symptoms of a mood disorder you may be suffering from. There are two major types of mood disorders:
These usually include a sense of hopelessness, lack of joy or the ability to enjoy things which manifests itself as depression. Depression makes it hard to do simple tasks like getting out of bed, showering, going out or working.
Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health condition that can create extreme mood shifts from high-energy moods (mania or hypomania) to low-energy moods – depression or both.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of mood disorders, please contact us at Advantage Mental Health Center. We are here to help.
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