At first glance, chocolate may seem like nothing more than a yummy treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth!
We make our chocolate with minimal ingredients from bean to bar process – that means is it made straight from the cacao bean. We crack, winnow and grind each cruelty-free cacao bean, mix with organic cacao butter and coconut sugar, and temper to perfection in our small craft kitchen. We don’t add anything to our products that doesn’t need to be there – cacao (and chocolate) has lots of great benefits on it’s own!
Cacao contains over 300 different compounds and more than 1500 flavour components, making it one of the most complex known chemical mixtures with a profound and wonderful effect on the human body. It has been found that consuming just 40 grams of chocolate every day for two weeks is enough to reduce the levels of your stress hormones (talk about ‘self-care’). Furthermore, consuming chocolate has also been found to have stimulant effects and even activate the pleasure centres in the brain, all while serving as a delicious snack.
Curious to know what makes chocolate such a powerhouse? Here are some of the compounds that can be found in chocolate, and the benefits they have for our minds and bodies:
Anandamide, derived from the Sanskrit word for “bliss” or “joy”, is often referred to as the ‘bliss molecule’ due to its effect on the brain after consumption. It helps to drive feelings of pleasure, and works to stimulate and open synapses in the brain to allow these feelings to spread. While anandamide is already produced naturally in the brain, it is present in small quantities in cacao solids and has also been found in cannabis and black truffles. It is suggested that the darker the chocolate you’re eating is (like our 70% dark chocolate bar), the higher the likelihood that it contains anandamide.
In the brain anandamide takes part in modulating memory, motivation, and appetite, but quickly gets broken down by an enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). The longer this neurotransmitter stays in the body before being broken down, the longer you can feel the effects of this bliss molecule – which is actually good news for chocolate eaters! In addition to anandamide itself, chocolate also contains two other compounds that slow down the effects of FAAH, leaving the neurotransmitter to do its feel-good work for a little bit longer.
Theobromine can be found in many different foods, like tea, coffee, and kola nuts, but is found in the highest amounts in chocolate. This compound has a very similar chemical makeup to caffeine, which allows it to provide the same stimulating effects to those who consume it. This might be why you find yourself with a little pep in your step after eating your favourite chocolate bar!
Phenylethylamine develops in trace amounts in cacao beans as they are fermented, which is an essential part of the cacao post harvest process. Though not present in large amounts, unroasted cacao beans (like in our 70% Arriba Nacional Dark Chocolate) are the highest known food source that contains concentrations of this compound. In the body PEA acts similar to an amphetamine-like substance by raising blood pressure and heart rate, and by releasing hormones like norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. These physiological effects are linked to our brain’s pleasure system and to the feeling of being in love, which might be why PEA is also sometimes referred to as the ‘love drug’.
Tryptophan is found in small quantities in dark chocolate, and is a building block of the naturally occurring neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin is released in the brain when experiencing attraction, but also more generally acts as a mood stabilizer, helps to reduce depression, and regulates anxiety in the human brain.
Magnesium is involved in over 600 reactions in your body including energy creation, protein formation, muscle movement, and nervous system regulation. Many people in the general population don’t get enough of this nutrient in their regular diet, and low levels of magnesium in the body has been linked to a greater risk of depression and chronic inflammation. Good news is, dark chocolate has been found as a great source of magnesium! In 50g of 70% dark chocolate (like our 70% Awajún dark chocolate bar) you can find up to 114 mg of magnesium, which is more than a quarter of the recommended daily allowance.
Cacao contains more antioxidants than in red wine, blueberries, goji berries, and acai berries combined! These famous little compounds help you to look younger and help your immune system to fight off disease. Flavanols (a type of antioxidant compound) also help your body to produce nitric oxide which helps improve blood flow by making the blood vessels relax.
In addition to tasting good, chocolate also has many ways of making us feel good, too. And with vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and cruelty-free products, you can feel extra good about enjoying each bite of our Living Lotus chocolate bars.