Chocolate is one of the most popular sweet treats in the world. According to the World Cocoa Foundation more than three million tons of cocoa beans are consumed each year (Szalay, 2018).
Why does everyone love chocolate so much? Because its delicious? Well… YES! But did you know it is also good for your brain?
That feel-good feeling you get when you take a bite of decadent chocolate? It turns out it’s not just your tingling taste buds making you happy. It’s actually a specific molecule that cause those feelings of joy: anandamide, or the bliss molecule.
(Chef Emma adds extra bliss to our Vegan Dark Coconut Truffles)
Chocolate contains an array of different compounds, a large portion of those are antioxidants molecules and flavonoids that have positive effects on cognition and memory (Nehlig, 2013). In comes the ‘bliss molecule’ otherwise known as Anandamide. The word anandamide originates from the Sanskrit ananda, which means ‘bliss’ or ‘joy.’ Anandamide is chemical neurotransmitter our bodies naturally produce to help maintain cell balance and keep our body in a state of homeostasis. Anandamide is found naturally in chocolate (Spadaccini) and has many overall health benefits. The most prominent benefits are on mental health, in fact low levels of anandamide in the body have been shown to lead to increased anxiety and fear and decreases ones ability to cope with stress.
All animals, humans included, naturally have an endocannabinoid system. This natural system was discovered in the 1990’s when researching how cannabis and THC affect the body (Raypole, 2019). The endocannabinoid system, including anandamide can protect against psychiatric related diseases such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD (Alban, 2020). It is made up of receptors, which are structures on the surface of cells that are able to lock onto molecules (such as THC and Anandamide) and carry the signal through the cell wall which has effects on sleep, mood, appetite, memory, and fertility (Spadaccini). Anandamide, similar to THC, attaches to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in our endocannabinoid systems (Bennett, 2020), which helps induce that “bliss” feeling when consumed! CBD impacts the CB1 and CB2 receptors indirectly and has been shown to boost our bodies ability to produce anandamide (Biles, 2017)!
Neurotransmitters in general break down very quickly, but the other natural compounds in chocolate actually slow down the breakdown of anandamide, prolonging the positive effects when ingested (Spadaccini). An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a truffle a day might keep your anxiety away and a smile on your face 😊
You will find the highest levels of anandamide in chocolates that have been altered the least so dark chocolates will have higher levels than milk chocolate.
Alban, D. (2020, August 3). Anandamide: Bliss Molecule for Happiness & Mental Balance. Be Brain Fit. https://bebrainfit.com/anandamide/.
Bennett, P. (2020, July 28). Meet the ‘Bliss Molecule’ Anandamide, a Cannabinoid Your Body Produces. Leafly. https://www.leafly.com/news/science-tech/meet-bliss-molecule-anandamide-cannabinoid.
Biles, M. (2017, August 1). Anandamide – The Body’s Own Antidepressant And How To Boost It Naturally. Medium. https://medium.com/@mary_c_biles/anandamide-the-bodys-own-antidepressant-and-how-to-boost-it-naturally-895cdafcf7fe.
Nehlig, A. (2013, March). The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. British journal of clinical pharmacology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3575938/.
Raypole, C. (2019, May 17). Endocannabinoid System: A Simple Guide to How It Works. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/endocannabinoid-system.
Spadaccini, J. The Sweet Lure of Chocolate. Exploratorium Magazine: Chocolate: page 8. https://www.exploratorium.edu/exploring/exploring_chocolate/choc_8.html.
Szalay, J. (2018, March 28). Chocolate Facts, Effects & History. LiveScience. https://www.livescience.com/61754-chocolate-facts.html.