Food and Nutrition

You’re Not Imagining It: Chocolate Really Does Reduce Stress

Allie Flinn

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Having an intense week? Here's why chocolate for stress relief is actually effective.

"Chocolate reduces stress" seems a little like one of those things you tell yourself so that this year doesn't seem like a total serotonin-sucking nightmare. (Like my mantra, "wine doesn't count during election week.") However, in chocolate's case, it is actually true. In this episode of Well+Good's YouTube series You Versus Food, registered dietitian Tracy Lockwood Beckerman breaks down what, exactly, makes chocolate an effective stress-fighter.

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

Go for dark chocolate, which has higher amounts of cocoa in it and thus greater amounts of those beneficial antioxidants. (Plus, it's lower in sugar compared to milk chocolate, and sugar in excess can contribute to inflammation and anxiety-provoking blood sugar crashes.) You can also try cacao, which is made from unroasted, cold-pressed cocoa beans and thus retains lots of nutrients, including stress-fighting magnesium and mood-boosting alkaloids. When buying, look for brands like Moodygirl ($26 for three bars), Sol Cacao ($7 per bar), and Hu Kitchen ($6 per bar), all of which make dark chocolate bars with minimal, high-quality ingredients.

Since 2020 has replaced essentially every nanogram of any happiness hormones with cortisol, I am extremely here for the knowledge that chocolate for stress relief is actually backed by science. But it isn't the only food that can help reduce stress. So if, like me, your stress levels are so high that all of your targeted ads on social media are for weighted blankets and natural sleep aids, check out the full video to see the other stress-fighting foods Beckerman recommends.

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