Cocoa is rich in plant chemicals called flavonoids that help protect you from the effects of mental stress.
Steve Buissinne en Pixabay / Pixabay
Dark or bitter chocolate helps relieve stress and dampens the effects it causes on your body. Dark chocolate contains more cocoa solids than other types. Cocoa is rich in flavonoids that can help protect people from mental stress-induced cardiovascular eventssuch as strokes, heart disease and thrombosis, according to new research.
Mental stress induces immediate increases in heart rate and blood pressure in healthy adults and also results in a temporary impairment of the function of the arteries even after the stress episode has stopped.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom) note that it has been shown that single episodes of stress increase the risk of acute cardiovascular events. People at risk for cardiovascular disease show poorer vascular responses to acute stress.
Blood vessels can function better during mental stress when drinking cocoa
Mental stress can have a negative effect on blood vessel function. The flavonoids contained in cocoa are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects. The Harvard Nutrition Source notes that it has been shown that flavonoids promote nitric oxide production that helps relax blood vessels, improve blood flow, and lower blood pressure.
A study published in 2019 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition indicates that an intake of 85% dark chocolate (from cocoa) dampened reactivity in blood pressure and heart rate during mental stress.
In a recent study, researchers at the University of Birmingham found that blood vessels could function better during mental stress when people were previously given (90 minutes before) a cocoa drink containing high levels of flavonoids.
Participants’ blood flow and cardiovascular activity were measured at rest, during stress, and 90 minutes afterward. Researchers found that drinking flavanol-rich cocoa may be an effective strategy for reduce endothelial dysfunction after mental stress and also improve blood flow during stressful episodes.
How Chocolate Helps You Relieve Stress
One of the ways that dark chocolate works to reduce our stress levels is by affecting our body’s release of cortisol. Cortisol is the main stress hormone. Smaller amounts of epinephrine (adrenaline), another stress hormone, are also released.
What chocolate to choose
Dark chocolate contains more cocoa solids (50-90%) than milk chocolate (10-50%) while white chocolate contains no cocoa solids and is simply made from cocoa butter, sugar, and milk. Opt for dark chocolate 70% or higher (cocoa solids content) to get the most flavonoids.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.