The real reason women crave chocolate during their period

Publish Date
Sunday, 28 January 2018, 3:30PM
Photo / Getty

Photo / Getty

Food cravings are often a sign that the body is lacking a particular nutrient so why do women crave chocolate around their menstrual cycle?

"It's commonly believed that pre and perimenstrual chocolate cravings are due to hormonal imbalances," said dietitian Melanie McGrice on her blog, the Daily Mail reports.

"The theory is, that it's caused by the drop in progesterone and oestrogen, which occurs right before our period begins, that causes an increase in hunger.

"At the same time, our 'feel-good' hormone, serotonin, takes a sudden dip, whilst our stress hormone, cortisol, spikes," she adds.

"This hormone rollercoaster results in the anxious little girl inside of us, breaking out and reaching for the chocolate, or whatever is filled with sugar and fat, to make us feel better."

However, research has found no solid physiological evidence behind the urge to eat chocolate around that time of the month.

One study compared the chocolate cravings experienced by Spanish and American women. The women were asked directly if they craved chocolate perimenstrually.

The American women were far more likely to pinpoint their menstrual cycle as the time they craved chocolate compared to the Spanish women.

Others believe that craving chocolate premenstrually may be more psychological. 

"It's thought to work like this: our period makes us sad and stressed. We eat chocolate. Chocolate tastes good and makes us feel a little better," said Ms McGrice.

"I believe that craving chocolate before our period is a mixture of physiology, psychology and cultural conditioning," she added.

"Our hormonal changes during the days leading up to our menstrual cycle leave us feeling stressed and tired, which we try to eradicate by indulging in our favourite comfort foods."

So how can we resist these cravings?

LOWER YOUR INTAKE OF COFFEE AND CARBOHYDRATES 

In the week leading up to your menstrual cycle, Ms McGrice recommends reducing coffee and refined carbohydrates. 

"Coffee can increase your levels of our stress hormone, cortisol. While refined carbs cause a spike in blood sugar, which then leads to a massive drop. Both of these can cause fatigue which can make us crave more sugar and caffeine to help boost our energy levels again," she said.

INCREASE YOUR INTAKE OF PROTEIN AND FIBRE

Consuming a protein and fibre-rich diet helps our body stay fuller for longer, so we're less likely to reach for a chocolate bar or tub of ice cream.

EXERCISE

It's no secret that physical activity can help us feel better and more upbeat because it boosts serotonin production but it's often the last thing on our mind during that time of the month.

"Try heading out for a walk with a girlfriend or book into a regular exercise class, to boost your motivation," said Ms McGrice. 

ALLOW SOME INDULGENCE

"One piece of chocolate isn’t going to ruin your life forever, and if it helps you feel better, then it’s not the end of the world ... but try to limit your intake to a small amount on one or two days each month," she concluded. 

This article was first published on Daily Mail and is republished here with permission.