The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

Dark Chocolate Could Save Your Life

Stress. It’s something we all experience. We stress over the little things like making it to school on time and more significant things such as the uncertainty of our indefinite futures. We even stress over how much we stress.

Unfortunately, stress is a familiar feeling for most of us, and it can also be a harmful one.

From warm chocolate chip cookies to dark chocolate squares, chocolate is a comfort food for many people and is commonly viewed as a guilty pleasure. However, as more and more research was conducted about chocolates, they rightfully began to be viewed as a “health food.” (Photo Taken by Kaya Scuba)

The American Institute of Stress reports that  120,000 people die every year as a direct result of work-related stress and stress-induced illnesses. Over  4% of the total death toll in the United States is attributed to the stress people encounter from their work on a daily basis.

Luckily for those of us who can relate to that heavy stress burden, we have discovered a variety of ways to manage stress. People try everything from meditation to exercise to spending quality time with your favorite furry friend to help conquer the stress beast, but there is one method in particular that I find to be heavily underrated.

I’m talking about a stress reliever that you already know and love, but probably don’t realize the extent of its benefits. In fact, you may not know it has benefits at all and simply view it as a guilty pleasure. I’m talking about something that not only helps you cope with stress but can also improve your brain function and provide your body with nourishing nutrients.

I’m talking about dark chocolate.

This antioxidant-packed treat is so much more than a delight for your taste buds. Dark chocolate is chock full of important vitamins and minerals including iron, which helps to strengthen your immune system, and magnesium, a mineral moderates moods and combats depression.

Next time you’re studying for a math quiz, try popping a square of dark chocolate in your mouth. It can help improve your memory and sharpen your mental math skills. Eating dark chocolate can even have a positive effect on physical activity because it can increase your speed and endurance.

But these findings, as fascinating as they are, are not what we are here to talk about. Today we are focusing on yet another benefit of this remarkable compound: its ability to reduce stress. This goes beyond the fleeting sense of comfort and satisfaction you may experience as you treat yourself to a piece of chocolate after a rough day.

Most grocery stores carry a large variety of different brands and types of chocolate. Studies show that chocolate with at least 70% cacao can decrease levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and catecholamines. (Photo Taken by Kaya Scuba)

Registered dietitian, Tracy Beckerman, explains how dark chocolate can actually alter stress hormone levels in our bodies.

Dark chocolate may be helpful in relieving anxiety due to its antioxidants, flavanols, and, of course, taste,” Beckerman said. “Antioxidants present in dark chocolate can reduce stress by lowering levels of cortisol, as well as fight-or-flight hormones known as catecholamines.”

An experimental study explained on Live Science found that people who rated themselves highly stressed at the beginning of the study  had lower levels of stress hormones after eating chocolate every day for two weeks. The subjects ate 40 grams of dark chocolate, an amount comparable to a regular-sized Hershey’s bar, every day for the duration of the study, and doctors took urine and blood samples at the beginning, middle, and end. Their findings showed lower levels of cortisol and catecholamine (another stress hormone) in the samples from the end of the study.

“The daily consumption of dark chocolate resulted in a significant modification of the metabolism of healthy and free-living human volunteers with potential long-term consequences on human health within only 2 weeks of treatment,” the researchers wrote. “This was observable through the reduction of levels of stress-associated hormones and normalization of the systemic stress metabolic signatures.”

Very Well Mind, an online company working to provide up-to-date information on health, published a study on the immediate stress-relieving qualities of flavonoids found in dark chocolate. Of the 65 healthy men participating in the study, 31 of them consumed 50 grams of dark chocolate. The other 34 consumed the same amount of white chocolate colored to look like dark chocolate but without the flavonoids.

Two hours later, the men participated in two stressful situations: a mock job interview and completing a math problem in front of an audience. Their stress hormone levels were measured before and after. As you can imagine, both experiences caused an increase in stress hormone levels in the participants, but the ones who consumed the “real” dark chocolate released less cortisol. The ones who ate dark chocolate reacted less severely to the stress.

In addition to reducing stress, chocolate can also help to increase brain function and sharpen your mental math skills. Many people have instinctively reached for chocolate while studying and unknowingly enjoyed the benefits of the treat. (Photo Taken by Kaya Scuba)

The stress-reducing benefits of chocolate have been proven, but there is something you should keep in mind before reaching for a Hershey’s bar. These benefits come from the actual cacoa in the chocolate, a dark bitter powder ground from cacao beans. Dark chocolate, especially 70% and above, has a much higher concentration of cocoa and does not contain the excessive amounts of sugar found in most milk chocolate.

Lee S. Berk of the School of Allied Health Professions stresses the benefits of choosing chocolate with a high cocoa percentage.

“Studies show us that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects,” Berk said.

You probably won’t remember all the different statistics and quotes in this article. You may forget the details of the described studies and their findings. And that’s okay. But I do hope that next time you’re feeling stressed, you take a moment to savor a piece of dark chocolate and enjoy its benefits. Because who knows? It may save your life.

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Comments (3)

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  • A

    Autumn T.Oct 26, 2021 at 8:45 pm


  • A

    Autumn T.Oct 26, 2021 at 8:42 pm

    This blew my mind. I converted to the chocolate theory 2 minutes ago and have already been saved. Thank you, Kaya, for being the chocolate Shepard we all needed.

  • K

    KayleyOct 26, 2021 at 8:38 pm

    I love this article! Kaya is amazing! #darkchocolatewillsavemylife! #imabeliever