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Did you know? Learn why our body craves chocolate when we're stressed
Written by SOT.COM.AL 9 Qershor 2023
When we are stressed, our body feels threatened. So it goes into a mode known as "fight or flight," one of the most instinctive responses to danger. This is where a chocolate comes in handy. But how can this be explained?
"The desire for chocolate is considered a reaction to a stressful situation, covering the need for energy," explains Dr. Nicky Keay, Endocrinologist and Honorary Clinical Lecturer in Medicine at University College London.
This means that by activating cortisol, the stress hormone, the body harnesses energy from the immune system, which triggers sugar cravings.
"Stress increases cortisol, which depletes energy stores, so we feel like we need something sweet to boost our energy levels," she explains.
However, these sweet doses of energy are not so innocent for the body, since as the sugar increases, so does the blood sugar and then it drops.
As the clinical nutritionist, dr. Sarah Brewer, “when blood sugar levels drop too low, the body's fight-or-flight stress response is activated to help increase blood sugar (glucose) levels and circulating fatty acids as essential fuel for muscles and the brain. This stress response then triggers hunger, so you will eat to increase food levels and may develop cravings – especially for sugary foods with carbohydrates that quickly raise blood sugar levels.”
This increase in blood glucose levels triggers the production of insulin, which can cause glucose levels to drop back down to lower levels than usual, creating a vicious cycle.
Why do we choose chocolate in particular?
As the dietitian explains, chocolate has relaxing effects on the brain, increasing levels of various mood-regulating chemicals, such as phenylethylamine.
In addition, chocolate contains tryptophan – a chemical that converts to serotonin in the brain, increasing mood, but also theobromine, providing similar mood-enhancing effects.
"The unique texture of chocolate, which melts in the mouth, creates a delicious sensation and, according to psychologists, is one of the main reasons why chocolate is so loved," adds the nutritionist .
She advises not to exclude it from our diet, but to be moderate in its consumption. We can choose dark chocolate, with a cocoa content of at least 70% instead of milk chocolate or white chocolate, aiming for as many antioxidants as possible.