Can Dark Chocolate Actually Make You Happier? Here's What Experts Say
While a post-dinner piece of chocolate has benefits in and of itself—meaning if it makes you happy, then please, indulge!—are there any science-backed benefits for the body?
Of course, it all depends on which type of chocolate you eat. But good news: Dark chocolate does have some full-body benefits you might not expect, especially when it comes to lifting your spirits. A hint: There's more than one reason you may feel better (read: happier) after that sweet treat.
Can dark chocolate lower cortisol levels?
Here's the rundown: In this study1, 30 participants consumed 40 grams of dark chocolate for up to 14 days. Researchers tested blood and urine samples at the beginning, midpoint, and end of the study.
Interestingly, those in the study classified as "high anxiety" showed a distinct metabolic profile indicative of different energy homeostasis and gut microbiome. This makes sense, considering how much we know about the gut-brain connection.
The results? "Dark chocolate reduced the urinary excretion of the stress hormone cortisol and catecholamines and partially normalized stress-related differences in energy metabolism (glycine, citrate, trans-aconitate, proline, beta-alanine) and gut microbial activities (hippurate and p-cresol sulfate)," researchers note.
Translation: The study provides strong evidence that daily consumption of 40 grams of dark chocolate during a period of two weeks could help lower stress hormones and have beneficial effects on metabolism.
Plus, any foods that contribute to hormonal health and reduce cortisol levels can also have full-body and beauty benefits—as stress can lead to breakouts and a reduction in collagen production (read: more fine lines and wrinkles).
That's the good news. The bad news: It's not always easy to find chocolate without tons of added sugar. Keep your eye out for pure dark chocolate, organic cacao, and natural sweeteners like pure monk fruit extract. (Try these chocolate collagen powders for rich flavor and health benefits.)
If you're craving something more decadent, you might even opt for a rich hot chocolate, sans added sugar—here's a recipe to get you started.
Consider this research as yet another reason to indulge in a daily dark chocolate habit. However, it's important to prioritize high-quality sources of dark chocolate without added sugars. With that, chocolate can be great for the skin and the body, especially when combined with other vitamins—such is the case with many natural chocolate collagen supplements and protein powders.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.