If you've participated in cacao ceremony before, then you're familiar with the feel-good feelings that arrive anywhere from 20-40 minutes after ingestion. That's because cacao is a fantastic source of scientifically proven "bliss chemicals" known to influence the body and brain in beneficial ways. Let's pull the curtain on these mysterious chocolate chemicals and reveal their delightful identity:
1. Serotonin: A neurotransmitter commonly known as the "feel-good chemical. Cacao not only supplies the body with serotonin, but also aids the body in producing its own serotonin naturally. Serotonin is well known for its ability to combat stress and improve our mood by promoting the feelings of comfort, contentment, happiness, relaxation, and well-being.
2. Phenylethylamine (PEA): better known as "the love chemical," for its association with the giddy excitement one feels when falling in love. When ingested, PEA stimulates the central nervous system to release the body's natural opium-like compounds called endorphins. PEA signals the body to promote the sensation of alertness, focus, and mental acuity, all while elevating one's mood, speeding up metabolism, and boosting memory.
3. Anandamide: in Sanskrit, ananda literally means "bliss," making anandamide the "bliss chemical" in chocolate. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter found naturally in cacao and also in the human brain (the only two places it is has currently been discovered). Anandamide doesn't leave you in a mind-altered state, but, does produce a feeling of euphoria.
4. Theobromine: this chemical acts as a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes smooth muscle. Benefits of this chemical include enhanced blood flow and oxygenation to the brain in addition to long-term antioxidant properties.
5. Magnesium: every cell in the body contains this mineral and requires it to function. Magnesium helps increase energy, calms nerves, aids in digestion, and relieves muscle aches and pains (among a whole host of other benefits).
We could go on for days touting the health benefits of cacao, but to save you your sanity (and us ours), we'll simply sum it all up with this EPIC quote:
"After water, cocoa is the single healthiest substance you can put in your mouth. Higher in antioxidant power than any other fruit, cocoa delivers potent benefits to the cardiovascular system, immune system and brain. It is an overall wellness agent extraordinaire, and can pare down cardiovascular disease risk to almost zero." - Chris Kilham, WellBella