Cocoa, which is primarily found in dark chocolate, contains various components that may have a psychological effect. One of which is tryptophan, a key component of serotonin – a neurotransmitter that affects our mood. However, no strong relationship has yet been demonstrated, probably because the quantities found in chocolate are too small for any real effect. Chocolate’s positive effect on our mood is probably mainly due to it being a tasty food which is very pleasant to eat. This is also why it is considered a stress reliever.
Chocolate also contains phenolics, such as flavanols, which promote healthy blood flow, including in the brain. Some studies have found that consuming chocolate has a positive effect on brain function, especially on short-term memory(1). Other studies suggest that chocolate can alleviate certain adverse effects (such as inflammation), which are caused by psychological stress(2).
1. Crichton G E et al. Appetite 2016 ;100 :126-132.
2. Kuebler U et al. Brain Behav Immun 2016;57:200-8.