Made from the fruit of the cacao tree, chocolate was first created by the ancient Mayans sometime around 500 A.D. In fact, the Mayans were so taken with their invention that they wrote about it on wall carvings and on pottery. The love affair with chocolate continues to this day. There are even groups of “chocoholics” who claim to be addicted to the sweet stuff!
Anxiety sufferers tend to love their chocolate too—for some of us, it can work better than medication–and there are scientific reasons for this:
- Chocolate contains magnesium, which naturally soothes anxiety and relaxes muscles. If you are lacking magnesium, you are more likely to be anxious and also to crave sources of magnesium to correct the deficit.
- It is no secret that chocolate contains sugar. What you may not know, however, is that the body’s release of insulin in response to moderate amounts of sugar causes the release of serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter anti-depressants seek to increase.
- There is evidence that, for some people, eating chocolate causes their brain to produce substances akin to opiates such as heroin. Chocolate high, anyone?
- Chocolate contains cannabinoids which stimulate the production of anandamide, also called “natural THC,” which is the active ingredient in marijuana. Once again, chocolate high, anyone?
- Chocolate is rich in antioxidants. In fact, one regular-sized chocolate bar has as many flavonoids as a glass of red wine.
For these reasons (and because it tastes so delicious), we often reach for chocolate when we feel anxious. It is a natural soother, and it contains nutrients and protective antioxidants.
Warning: in addition to sugar, chocolate also contains caffeine so be careful not to consume too much or the soother will become a stimulant and cause anxiety!