Chocolate Makes Us Happy

Friday, April 24th, 2020

Many of us turn to chocolate when times are tough and just when we want a sweet treat. Why is that? Of course, it’s sweet and smooth and oh so yummy, but is there more?

The Science of Chocolate

There’s a reason chocolate is called the ‘love drug’, the ‘happiness drug’ and the ‘pleasure drug’, and it’s not just about marketing. Chocolate contains numerous ingredients, chemicals and compounds that have been shown to affect the brain and body in a myriad of pleasurable and positive ways.

While the small amounts of each individual chemical in chocolate may not have profound effects on the brain, the combination of them all packaged together in a handy bar or bag, which looks and tastes great and feels like a bit of an indulgence, is a winning combination to produce happy feelings in the eater.


Tryptophan is an amino acid found in small quantities in chocolate and is used by the brain to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter that can produce feelings of happiness.


Phenylethylalanine promotes feelings of attraction, excitement and nervousness and is associated with the initial euphoria of falling in love. It also acts as an anti-depressant by combining with dopamine that is naturally present in the brain. Most of the phenylethylamine derived from chocolate is metabolized quickly, making it unlikely to have any significant aphrodisiac effects on the brain.


Theobromine is a weak stimulant that works alongside caffeine to produce the characteristic ‘high’ that many people experience after getting their chocolate fix.


Scientists at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego suggest that chocolate contains anandamide that produces a THC-like effect in the brain. But not to worry, you would need to ingest more than 25 pounds of chocolate in one sitting to get the same affects as cannabis.


When sweet sugars hit our taste buds they send a chemical message to our brain. This not only tells our brain we have just eaten something sweet, but it also triggers the release of chemicals normally associated with reward and pleasure. The most well-known of these is dopamine, but there are many other chemical changes that all contribute to the pleasing sensation we get after eating sweet things. It’s no wonder we crave it.

All these things also contribute to the addictiveness we feel toward chocolate. We crave the feel-good feelings!

Dark Chocolate may actually be good for you

Scientists have confirmed that dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao is beneficial for our health. The greater cocoa content provides high concentrations of antioxidants called flavonoids, which reportedly prevent cancers, protect blood vessels, promote cardiac health, and counteract high blood pressure.

The moral of the story is that, yes, chocolate does make us happy, even if only temporary. If you reach for dark chocolate, not only will you be euphoric and helping your mental health, you’ll also be helping to protect your body from evil oxidants.

So, instead of feeling guilty when we reach for some chocolate, we can understand why we do and just embrace the yumminess and potential health benefits!


Heart of the Desert is a working pistachio ranch and vineyard with four retail establishments in New Mexico. They are best known for their farm fresh pistachios and Award-Winning New Mexico wines. Each store offers wine and pistachio tastings. They offer worldwide shipping and produce attractive gourmet baskets that make great corporate and family gifts. The main store, on the ranch in Alamogordo, offers farm tours that showcases how pistachios are grown and processed as well as a stunning Tuscany themed patio that overlooks the groves and is available for weddings, private parties or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine.