Why We Crave Chocolate

Whether it is dark, milk or white, in the shape of a bunny or an egg, many of us will be enjoying chocolate this Easter. And even if you do not celebrate Easter, chocolate is still a favourite for many people.

What is not to love? It tastes good, smells good, and that creamy, melt-in-your-mouth consistency stimulates feelings of pleasure on the tongue. It is the most commonly craved food in the world, and science may be able to explain why.

The whole experience of eating chocolate results in feel-good neurotransmitters, mainly dopamine, being released in the brain, says Amy Jo Stavnezer, a professor of psychology and neuroscience.

Dopamine is released when you experience anything that you enjoy – sex, laughing, or watching your TV show. Dopamine helps you to remember positive experiences, explains professor Stavnezer, and will give you a little surge of anticipation when you see, smell, or even just imagine chocolate.

Scientists originally thought that the compounds chocolate contains, such as theobromine and caffeine, could activate the dopamine system directly, like cigarettes and cocaine do. But experiments have shown that it’s a combination of all the components of chocolate – the mouth-feel, the taste, the sugar and fat ratio, plus the effects of the many different chemicals – that drives the craving.

Now you know you are biologically driven to eat that chocolate, take your time with it. Choose quality chocolate, eat it slowly and do not feel guilty.