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A delicacy that can lift spirits, chocolates are quite a treat. Almost a billion people consume chocolate every day. Why do most people love chocolate, and is it good for us in some way? A simple reason why chocolate is cherished lies not only in its taste but also in the chemicals it contains. These chemicals can make a person happy. Chocolate contains tryptophan, which the brain uses to make a chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is a ‘feel-good’ chemical that makes us happy. Other chemicals like theobromine, phenylethylamine, and caffeine are also present. These chemicals make us feel more alert, and full of energy. However, this also makes chocolate a toxic food for our beloved fluffy friends, dogs. Theobromine, which is present in chocolate, can poison a dog.
Chocolate also contains anandamide, another feel-good (‘ananda’ means joy in Sanskrit) chemical. Anandamide is found naturally in our brains but breaks down fast. Chemists have speculated that the anandamide in chocolate can last longer. Chocolate makes our happy hours even longer! Chocolate also increases the amount of a chemical called enkephalin in our brains, which makes us desire more chocolate.
The question arises: with so much goodness in chocolate, is it beneficial for our health? Since chocolate makes us happy, it is already giving us a leg up when we are sad or feeling low. Mental health is as important as physical well-being. Chocolate also contains a type of substance called antioxidants. Antioxidants can delay cell damage. Dark chocolate can boost heart health. Chocolate lowers blood pressure. Sometimes blood can form a clot, which is a clump of blood cells, inside the body. This can block blood vessels that carry oxygen to the brain and cause strokes. Chocolates reduce the chances of blood clotting and hence prevent strokes.
Chocolate is a great food, but too much of anything is bad. Most experts agree that 1–2 ounces of chocolate is the daily limit.