Does Chocolate Really Make Us Happy?
Before I get to the question posed in the title of this blog, I have to vent just a little.
Don’t you wish that experts would quit changing their mind? At first, researchers adamantly told us that dark chocolate had the same type of antioxidants found in red wine and the flavonoids were good for our heart. In fact, they told us that chocolate was good for our blood pressure, lowered cholesterol, prevented cancer and fixed practically everything that’s wrong with us.
Okay, everything except that darn expanding waistline.
Then they went and ruined my day and changed their mind. Now experts claim chocolate isn’t so healthy for us after all.
But I’m not buying it. They change their minds every two minutes, right? Besides, the former studies totally make sense to me. I’m sure you’ve heard this argument before. Chocolate is derived from cocoa bean. Beans are vegetables. Sugar is derived from sugar cane or sugar beets. Both are plants – which correct me if I’m wrong – puts them in the vegetable category. (By the way, I don’t really mean that, you must know that you correct a menopausal woman at your own risk.) In addition, chocolate cake from baking chips also contains milk which is a healthy dairy product. Enough said.
Of course, keep in mind that you’re listening to someone who owns T-shirts that say, “Will work for chocolate.” I’m a Chocoholics Anonymous dropout. As the joke goes, “My version of the 12-step chocoholics program is as follows: Never find yourself more than 12 steps away from chocolate at any time.”
As I wrote over at Hot Flash Daily in my article, Confessions of a Menopausal Crack Head, I’ve always been a chocoholic, but with menopause it’s SO much worse now. In fact, menopause has turned me into a bit of a selfish, hoarding, and yes, mean chocolate addict. As I confessed in the article, when my three-year-old granddaughter somehow found the last piece of chocolate hidden deep in the cupboard, I found myself uttering menacingly, “Give me the chocolate and no one gets hurt.” Poor thing couldn’t hand it to me fast enough and run for her little life. Hell hath no fury like a woman whose last piece of chocolate has been stolen.
Oh, of course I’m kidding! Well, sort of.
Anyhow, to get back to the question in the title of this blog, does chocolate really make us happy?
In short, the answer is yes. Chocolate contains a variety of chemicals, some of which make us feel good by boosting our endorphins (the feel-good hormones). Tryptophan, also found in chocolate, is used by the brain to make serotonin which helps us feel relaxed and happy. Caffeine gives us an extra boost of energy along with a calming effect. Scientists at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego even suggested that chocolate contained substances that produce a cannabis-like effect on the brain. Who doesn’t want a bit of happy high?
Several years ago, one study surveyed 1,367 men in their 70’s with similar socioeconomic backgrounds and asked questions about their health, satisfaction in life, and emotions like happiness and loneliness. In addition, they also sneaked in a question asking what kind of candy they preferred. Guess what? Those who preferred chocolate showed lower frequencies of depression and loneliness and had a more optimistic outlook on life.
So there, experts! Even if you take away health benefits, we still have all the mental benefits of this beloved substance.
As the funny Dave Barry said, “My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished two bags of M&M’s and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.”
Even Thomas Jefferson agreed. “The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain,” he said.
What a wise person. Who can argue with Thomas Jefferson?
And if I need more validation, Baron Justus von Liebig said in the 1800s, “Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power. It is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.”
“Exhausted power” = hello, that’s me, a tired woman who needs this beneficent restorer.
“Best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits” = writer = once again, that’s me. No wonder I need so much chocolate!
So the addiction continues. Last night I found an old Tootsie Roll that had rolled under the refrigerator and was so stale, I almost broke my front tooth biting into it. No matter, chocolate was drooling down the front of my shirt and I was in hog heaven enjoying every last morsel.
Chocolate is good for me. It makes me happy. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
As the Partridge Family sang, “Come on, get happy with some chocolate.” Okay, I made up the last part – but so what? It’s true!