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Maca and Cacao – nature’s mood foods

4 min read

Maca and Cacao – nature’s mood foods

What we eat has a huge impact on how we feel. You see, the food we eat can either help to support our energy levels and moods or reduce our bodies’ abilities to deal with everyday stresses.

And here’s some good news, did you know that chocolate is at the top of the mood boosting list!

Raw Cacao actually contains 4 amazing mood boosting chemicals - serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylethylamine, which can help with those feelings of happiness and wellbeing as well as alleviating symptoms of depression.

Have you ever found yourself reaching for some chocolate if you're feeling a little down? Well there is some proven science in this, in that cacao can actually help to convert the mood precursor tryptophan into the natural mood stabilizer serotonin within the body.

Cacao has the highest plant based source of magnesium which is needed for over 300 chemical reactions within the body including supporting heart health, energy production, muscle relaxation, helping turn glucose into energy enabling your brain to work with clarity and focus, and providing support for blood sugar balance. Cacao contains a whopping 130% per 100g of our RDA of magnesium.

Magnesium itself also helps to convert the amino acid tryptophan into the mood-boosting hormone serotonin. Serotonin also makes melatonin, which is needed for good quality sleep.

A major factor on how we feel is sleep quality and sleepless and restless nights is actually a form of chronic stress on the body.

Poor sleep quality has been linked to problems such as a weakened immune system, weight gain, hormonal imbalances and anxiety and depression, so including magnesium rich foods such as cacao can have a big impact on how you feel during the day.

Not only that but cacao is loaded with antioxidants and has 40x the concentration of antioxidants than blueberries, which helps to reduce the free radical damage from oxidative stress that causes inflammation and ageing.

Although cacao is a wonderful nutrient packed superfood, low cacao content chocolate such as milk or white chocolate does not have the same amazing health benefits and is normally laden with high sugar content! So, by opting for 85% cacao chocolate and raw cacao, you get to enjoy all the amazing mood boosting properties.

Another wonderful food that helps to support our moods and can even reduce stress is maca.

Adaptogenic herbs have traditionally been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and are used to support energy levels and a healthy stress response system.

Maca powder is an amazing adaptogenic root best known for helping to balance hormones and support our body's stress response, plus the high antioxidants can actually help support against oxidative stress.

Often people grab a coffee in the mornings or when they start to feel tired just for a quick boost of energy. Maca has been shown to provide sustained energy without the need for caffeine. Remember that your energy levels are associated with how you feel... low energy = low mood! So supporting energy levels throughout the day, can have a positive effect on the way your feel.

Not only that, but maca root is a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, copper, and zinc. It also boasts high levels of iron and calcium, plus it contains all eight essential amino acids and as well as phytonutrients that help to fight against free radical oxidative stress on the body.

So how can we include these into our everyday life to help support against the everyday stresses and help improve our overall mood? 

Step 1

Start the day with a nourishing breakfast, this will not only help to improve our energy levels but also support blood sugar balance.

Opting for a nutritious breakfast can help to stabilise blood sugar levels which helps to avoid those energy dips and possible low moods and food cravings.

You see blood glucose is the sugar that the bloodstream carries to all cells in the body to supply energy. We need to keep blood sugar levels stable to not only reduce our risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease but also to support energy levels throughout the day and also stabilise our moods.

Why not add some cacao and maca to your morning porridge, smoothie or pancakes for a delicious and nourishing breakfast.

Here’s a breakfast recipe that combines both.

Step 2

Life is all about balance so include a nourishing snack during the day if energy levels start to dip or you’re feeling hungry!

Make sure to include a snack that is not loaded with sugar or caffeine to help support energy levels and stabilise blood sugar levels which will help to reduce stress and anxiety and support moods.

Remember that high sugar can have a detrimental effect on mood and blood sugar levels often resulting in energy slumps and low mood.

Make up a batch of delicious cacao bliss balls, add cacao to your favourite smoothie or hot chocolate, and even add some Maca Powder to a batch of blondies or homemade protein bars.

Step 3

Take some time for yourself. Relaxation is completely overlooked when it comes to reducing stress levels and supporting our moods.

We are all programmed with a flight or fight response within our body’s sympathetic nervous system which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce a surge of adrenalin, which elevates blood pressure and boosts energy supplies and cortisol that increases blood sugar into the bloodstream and enhances the brain’s use of blood sugar that equips us to deal with the stresses of life. These hormones also communicates to the part of the brain that controls mood, motivation and fear until the stress has passed and all functions return to normal.

Long term activation of the stress response and overexposure to the stress hormone cortisol, can result in symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue, digestive issues, weight gain and sleep problems , just to name a few.

So it’s time to unwind, relax and enjoy a warm cacao hot chocolate. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, it’s a little time for you to forget about life’s stresses and just breathe.

Nutritionist Neleta Winter

June 2021