Help & Advice

Chocolate: A Natural Anxiety Treatment

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10, 2020

Chocolate: A Natural Anxiety Treatment

People are always looking for natural treatments they can take to fight anxiety. Anxiety medications are somewhat frightening and fraught with side effects, and therapy - while effective - is both expensive and time consuming.

You want something that can help treat your anxiety now, while also being safe and easy. One of the things you may want to try is something you probably always wanted to do anyway: eating chocolate.

How Chocolate Cures Anxiety

Obviously chocolate alone isn't all you need to do to magically cure your anxiety. If that were the case, everyone with anxiety would simply down pounds of chocolate and find themselves anxiety free.

But does chocolate reduce your anxiety in any way? The answer is: probably!

The Possible Benefits of Chocolate

There are logical reasons to think that chocolate may very well have benefits for those that have anxiety. This benefit isn't "strong" in the sense that you'll suddenly stop having anxiety and panic attacks, but the reason is there.

Now, when we talk about chocolate, we're talking about only dark chocolate. Milk chocolate has almost no nutritional value, and white chocolate isn't even really chocolate. The closer you get to pure dark chocolate the more likely the food has value. If you can get sugar free dark chocolate that's even better.

So what are the benefits of eating dark chocolate on anxiety?

  • Possible Serotonin Production One of the causes of anxiety is low serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that influences mood, and low serotonin is both responsible for anxiety and caused by anxiety. Dark chocolate has large amounts of Tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that also works as a precursor to serotonin. It's possible that by ingesting more dark chocolate, you're improving your serotonin levels.
  • Mood Elevation Another ingredient in chocolate is Theobromine. Theobromine is the ingredient that is toxic to dogs, but studies have shown that it seems to have a positive, mood elevating effect on those that ingest it.
  • Light Caffeine - Caffeine isn't necessarily bad. While many people claim it causes anxiety, most studies show that it only causes anxiety when consumed in high amounts, and that in low/moderate amounts it may actually have an anxiety reduction effect. It's not clear if the caffeine in chocolate is enough to cause an effect either way, but the potential benefit is there.
  • Magnesium Dark chocolate also contains high amounts of magnesium, and studies are starting to find that magnesium may be one of the few nutrients that has a noticeable effect on anxiety. People often take magnesium supplements, but getting your magnesium through food is considered a much healthier overall option.

Now, it should be noted that the studies on this are minimal, and while several have been shown to have results, there are also reasons to believe that those studies are not entirely accurate.

For example, one study wrote that the effects of ingesting chocolate were immediate. But logically that makes very little sense, since all of the ingredients of chocolate need time to digest. Tryptophan cannot be converted to serotonin instantaneously, especially if you haven't even digested the chocolate yet. It's possible that chocolate provides something that puts people in a better mood: genuinely good taste. Something that tastes delicious is always likely to improve your mood slightly.

Nevertheless, the potential for benefit really is there, so adding some dark chocolate to your diet may have some very real benefit.

Word of Caution: Healthy Eating

Of course, there are downsides to eating heavy amounts of a dessert like chocolate. Chocolate may be high in fat or cholesterol. It may make you full (possibly replacing meals with other important nutrients), and some studies have shown it's addictive. Chocolate also has a lot of calories, which could lead to weight gain in excess.

So while chocolate may be valuable, it should be treated like a dessert. If you're going to have a dessert every day, make sure that you're also eating healthier in general so that you don't start becoming unhealthy as a result.

How to Get the Most From Your Chocolate

If you do decide you want to give chocolate a try as a way of reducing your anxiety, keep in mind that there are better ways than simply chowing down on pounds of chocolate every day.

First, try to choose the finest, most natural dark chocolate. Remember, dark chocolate is the only valuable chocolate, and the more natural it is the more likely it is going to have the nutrients that supposedly help anxiety.

Second, consider eating dark chocolate that has other ingredients that are also healthy. There aren't many, but one thing worth trying is dark chocolate covered almonds. Almonds are incredibly healthy, rich in magnesium, and delicious. Keep in mind though that almonds are also high in calories, so you'll need to make sure that you exercise and stay healthy.

Also, don't simply depend on chocolate alone. Chocolate isn't going to magically cure severe anxiety. It may help, but you need to make sure that you're also using treatments that are more likely to be effective.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

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Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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