Thank you to Raw Elements Ambassador, Gillian Mandich, for authoring this blog post for us! Gillian is a holistic health promoter who is currently completing her PhD at Western University in Health and Rehabilitation Science, specializing in Health Promotion. Gillian’s passion for health and wellness is evident in her extensive academic background, the honours and rewards she has received, and her experiences as a yoga teacher, co-host of Holistic Health Diary Podcast and TV show, and more. Read on for Gillian’s insight on the nutritional and feel-good power of chocolate!
Think about the last time you ate a piece of raw, dark chocolate. How did it make you feel? Did it make you happy?
Chances are, it did!
And there’s a reason for that…chocolate makes us happy because it tastes good and because it can offer a healthy dose of preventative medicine!
Interestingly, it’s not only chocolate that can boost our happiness. There is a steadily growing body of evidence that suggests that every single thing we eat can affect both our brain function and our mood. As a happiness researcher, I have read compelling evidence for the relationship between diet and health (evidence from the field of Nutritional Psychiatry suggests that nutrition is a central determinant of both physical and mental health) as well as the link between diet and happiness.
Just like an expensive car, our brain functions at its best when it gets premium fuel. Choosing to eat high-quality foods can nourish the body and boost mental health and happiness. One of my favourite “happy foods” is chocolate because it is a great source of:
- Anandamide: named after the Sanskrit word for “bliss” (which is why it’s sometimes called the “bliss chemical”), anandamide activates a receptor that causes dopamine production (dopamine causes that “runner’s high” feeling we may get after a great workout).
- Antioxidants: compounds that stop or delay unstable atoms that damage cells (called free radicals), causing illness and aging.
- Magnesium: magnesium is essential for over 300 different chemical reactions in the body (such as maintaining energy, relaxation, and heart health) and it also plays an important role in insulin function.
- Phenylethylamine: a naturally occurring amphetamine, sometimes called “the love drug” because it arouses the love’s “butterfly” feelings (such as excitement, increased pulse, and happiness).
- Tryptophan: an amino acid used to make serotonin (a neurotransmitter that can boost mood and produce feelings of happiness).
The effects of chocolate on mood can be so profound that sometimes even just seeing chocolate, or inhaling its wonderful aroma, can spark a smile. And while chocolate can be a delicious tool to boost happiness, it’s important to remember that quality matters. I recommend Sunwarrior (try yummy flavours Chocolate and Mocha) and dark, raw chocolate such as Lovechock. (I’m obsessed – it’s DELICIOUS; 100% organic; gluten, soy, and lactose free; and made from 100% recyclable, plastic-free packaging! They have a variety of flavours, some with other ingredients also associated with happiness such as almonds, goji berries, cherries, and figs.)