It’s true! Dark chocolate may improve your mood!

brain health healthy eating healthy recipes real food resilience sugarfree Aug 21, 2022

Good news!  If you want a science-backed reason to enjoy a mood-boosting daily treat of rich dark chocolate, then this article is for you!

Does eating chocolate elevate your mood?  I know that I sure enjoy a small square (or 2) in the evening.  A recent study found that enjoying some very dark chocolate every day can, in fact, reduce negative moods.  And who doesn’t want that?

Several previous studies have linked chocolate to reduced symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Cocoa is also associated with an improved quality of life. It’s thought that this chocolate-mood effect may be because chocolate contains several anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that may influence our moods. 

But that’s not all. This recent study measured mood influences of regular dark chocolate eating, but it went ever further to try to find out how. The researchers looked at whether dark chocolate’s effects on mood may be due to an effect on the friendly microbes that live in our guts, a.k.a. our gut microbiome. 

So, does dark chocolate help moods? If so, how? And, what kind of dark chocolate works best?

Dark chocolate vs. mood

Researchers wanted to find out if they could objectively measure the effect that dark chocolate has on moods and whether it matters how dark the chocolate is. They designed a high-quality study called a randomized control trial. To do this, researchers got together a group of healthy 20-30 year old participants. Applicants were excluded if they regularly ate sweets, had any gastrointestinal issues or diabetes, took antibiotics in the previous 3 months, took pre/probiotics in the previous 6 months, or had moderate or severe depression (measured via the Beck Depression Inventory). At the end of recruitment, a total of 48 adults met the study criteria and agreed to participate in the study, and they were split into three groups. One group got 30 grams of 70% dark chocolate per day, the second group got 30 grams of 85% dark chocolate per day, and the third group got no chocolate.  These three groups committed to enjoying their assigned chocolate every day for three weeks. Their moods were measured before and after this study using a standard questionnaire.

Study participants who enjoyed 85% dark chocolate every day for three weeks had a significant reduction in the negative affect part of their mood. This mood boost (less negativity) was not found in those who had the 70% dark chocolate, as their moods turned out to be the same as the people in the control group who (sadly) had no daily chocolate. 

The researchers say, “These results suggest that intake of dark chocolate with a higher cocoa content has a positive influence on negative emotional states.”

In other words, 85% dark chocolate every day for three weeks helped participants feel more positive—which is a welcome mood boost.


What is it about 85% dark chocolate that helps improve moods?

To figure out if this mood improvement was from dark chocolate’s effects on the friendly microbes that live in our guts, the researchers measured participants’ gut microbiome. They found that the microbiome in those who enjoyed the 85% dark chocolate became more diverse over the course of the study. The researchers say, “These results indicate that daily intake of 85% dark chocolate increases the diversity of gut microbial communities.”  And increasing diversity is what we want!

The findings of this study indicate that 85% dark chocolate may have a prebiotic effect on the gut microbiome and this may improve moods via the gut-brain axis.

What’s a “prebiotic” and how can it influence our health?

There are probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are beneficial microbes that are found in some supplements or fermented foods (e.g., unpasteurized yogurt, sauerkraut, etc.). But, microbes need to eat too!  When the friendly microbes that live in our gut are fed their favourite foods, they thrive and in turn, they help to boost our health both physically and mentally.

What feeds probiotics? Prebiotics. 

Prebiotics are the nutritional compounds in our food that gut microbes love to eat. And this study confirms that some gut microbes thrive when fed 85% dark chocolate.

How does what we put in our stomach affect our mental health?

When our friendly gut microbes thrive, they help us feel better emotionally via the gut-brain axis. This axis includes several connections between our guts and our brains and may influence our moods.  These gut-brain connections include absorbing nutrients into the body, our nervous and immune systems, and the production of compounds like hormones and neurotransmitters.

Previous studies pointed to anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds in dark chocolate that may be able to improve mood, protect the brain, and reduce stress hormones. Plus, these compounds can be activated and made more available to humans with help from a healthy gut microbiome.


If you want to enjoy a small amount of 85% dark chocolate every day, then I say “go for it!” it may very well help to improve your moods and the health of your gut.

And keep reading for an easy anti-inflammatory recipe (good for your entire body-mind) featuring dark chocolate!


Recipe ~ Super Seed Chocolate Bark

8 servings


  • 3 oz 85% Dark Chocolate
  • 2 tsp Coconut Oil
  • ¼ cup Pumpkin Seeds
  • ¼ cup Sunflower Seeds
  • 2 Tbsps Hemp Seeds
  • Optional: add shredded coconut or chopped nuts


  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Using a double boiler (or a medium pot with an inch of water and heat-safe bowl on top, placed so that steam will not escape), bring water to a boil then reduce heat to low.
  3. Add the chocolate and coconut oil to the double boiler and stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted completely.
  4. Remove the inner bowl from the double boiler and stir in the seeds. Mix well until the seeds are completely covered in the chocolate.
  5. Transfer the chocolate and seeds to the prepared parchment paper and spread into an even layer. Place the bark in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until solid.
  6. When solid, break into pieces and store in an airtight container in the freezer or fridge until ready to eat. Enjoy!



Shin, J. H., Kim, C. S., Cha, L., Kim, S., Lee, S., Chae, S., Chun, W. Y., & Shin, D. M. (2022). Consumption of 85% cocoa dark chocolate improves mood in association with gut microbial changes in healthy adults: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 99, 108854.

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