How Cacao Can Help You Relax this Stress Awareness Month
April is Stress Awareness Month, where we’re encouraged to acknowledge the stressors of everyday life and make sure we know how to deal with them, as well as helping others to deal with their own. Here's how we do it!
April is Stress Awareness Month, where we’re encouraged to acknowledge the stressors of everyday life and make sure we know how to deal with them, as well as helping others to deal with their own. Sometimes, this can be something as simple as pausing, taking a deep breath and enjoying a little piece of pleasure.
Whether you get on the yoga mat for a relaxing flow, go for a walk with a friend, sink into a hot bath, or dive into some seriously good chocolate, indulging in your senses and recharging is key when you’re trying to calm the body and mind.
Our favourite method (you guessed it) is enjoying some Ombar mindfully. But how exactly can cacao help you to relax?
Mmmm for magnesium
We often boast about the benefits of magnesium in cacao, and for good reason. As well as being vital for energy and for our muscles and nerves, this key mineral has a reputation for helping us relax. In fact, muscle relaxation is directly dependent on magnesium. And deficiency in this mineral is linked to symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, muscle twitching, anxiety, palpitations and even high blood pressure. Things many of us experience when we’re highly stressed!
Some of us can struggle to get enough magnesium in our diets, especially if we eat little in the way of vegetables and whole plant foods. But pure, unroasted cacao is high in magnesium; our 100% Cacao bar contains 108.15mg of magnesium, which is 29% of our recommended daily intake. If 100% Cacao isn’t for you, our more palatable 90% Cacao provides you with 99.3mg of magnesium in a 35g bar, which is 26% per cent of the daily-recommended intake for adults. So, cacao is a really valuable source of magnesium, and a delicious way to get it into your body!
As well as magnesium, cacao also contains neuroactive substances (meaning ‘having an effect on the nervous system’) that could influence mood, pleasure and relaxation. These substances in cacao include small amounts of phenylethylamine (PEA) – a chemical that’s made in our brain and is thought to boost our levels of feel-good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin(1).
It’s all about the enjoyment
Of course, aside from the potential benefits of these active substances, it could well be that the main reason for chocolate having a relaxing effect is simply its utter deliciousness! Foods that are highly palatable (super tasty) stimulate the release of chemicals such as endorphins that boost mood and stimulate feelings of relaxation. In other words, doing (or eating) what you love helps you relax.
And the great thing about raw cacao is that, in contrast to most typical indulgent treats, you’re getting valuable nutrients and antioxidants that can benefit your health at the same time as helping you find your bliss. It’s a win-win!
The proof of the chocolate… is in the eating.
If all this isn’t enough to convince you, research also suggests that cacao can reduce anxiety and improve mood.
In a study on 72 people, those who drank a chocolate drink high in cacao polyphenols every day for 30 days rated themselves as being calmer and more contented than those who didn’t have the cacao drink(2). Lucky for you, our choc is high in polyphenols... so, to elevate feelings of stress in the long term, you could try eating Ombar daily (as if you needed another excuse!).
So, next time you need to take a breather, indulge in your favourite unroasted chocolate bar, and feel your troubles melt away.
- Irsfeld M et al. β-phenylethylamine, a small molecule with a large impact. Webmedcentral. 2013 Sep 30;4(9). pii: 4409.
- Pase MP et al. Cocoa polyphenols enhance positive mood states but not cognitive performance: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Psychopharmacol. 2013 May;27(5):451-8.