It’s not hard to tell when your period is coming - between the crankiness, crying at anything vaguely cute and craving chocolate 24/7, there’s usually some clear warning signs.
Chocolate is a well-known saviour for PMS. But who knows why you actually crave it more around your period? Here’s the science behind your crazy cravings and why you can’t stop thinking about that galaxy bar you have in the cupboard.
WHY DO I CRAVE CHOCOLATE ON MY PERIOD?
It’s common to crave sweet things before your period and that feeling of wanting to eat all the chocolate is a widely recognised symptom of PMS. In the UK, Canada and the USA, chocolate has been found to be the most common craving for women.
In fact, approximately half of all women craving sweet things report that their main craving is chocolate and these cravings have been found to peak perimenstrually (around menstruation) in women. Chocolate is the only high carbohydrate food that’s craved more before menstruation than at other times during the cycle.
The research behind the chocolate cravings
Some researchers have suggested that there’s a physiological link to why women crave chocolate. It might be due to changes in the body before a period that create the need for some ingredient like magnesium or serotonin.
The other explanation is that chocolate generates pleasure through the release of neurotransmitters (like dopamine) in the brain.
On the other hand, chocolate cravings may also be the result of cultural perceptions of chocolate being a treat that can soothe pain and lift your mood. Researchers have found that American women crave chocolate more than Spanish women, for instance, despite chocolate being common in both countries.
At the same time, researchers have found that eating 20g dark chocolate every day for 2 weeks before menstruation significantly decreased classic PMS symptoms in young women, including fatigue, cramps, bloating, diarrhea, headache, back pain and anxiety. So go ahead and listen to those cravings!
WHY DO I CRAVE CHOCOLATE BEFORE MY PERIOD?
If you follow your cycle closely, you might have noticed that your appetite levels tend to increase before your period.
There are two hormones in the female body that are thought to impact appetite, estrogen and progesterone.
During the first part of your cycle, estrogen levels are higher as you prepare for ovulation, and high levels of estrogen can lead to a lower appetite.
As your cycle continues, at the end when you commonly experience PMS symptoms, progesterone levels are high and estrogen levels are low. Progesterone is thought to increase appetite which means the high levels of this, combined with the low levels of estrogen right before you start your period, explains why your appetite increases.
But why do you crave chocolate before your period? Put simply, this is mainly down to the higher hormonal levels in your body affecting your mood, which results in a chocolate craving to cheer yourself up.
WHY DO WOMEN CRAVE SUGAR ON THEIR PERIOD?
Sugar is one of the most popular period cravings for women, but why?
Whilst there is no concrete scientific answer, it’s believed to be all down to your hormones.
Once your period starts, the level of serotonin, the hormone that promotes calm, in your body is low, whilst the levels of the stress hormone cortisol are high.
These hormonal changes and feelings of stress and anxiety can often lead us to seek out and crave comfort foods such as chocolate and sugary snacks. The higher sugar levels provide you with a boost of dopamine, a hormone that makes us feel good, and you will often crave the temporary mood boost that sugar can provide.
IS CHOCOLATE GOOD FOR YOU WHEN YOU’RE ON YOUR PERIOD?
While it’s not a great idea to binge on junk food and sugary snacks, the odd snack won’t hurt you.
If you want to try and limit your chocolate consumption during your period then you can always switch to dark chocolate which has fewer sweeteners and its richer in antioxidants.
Dark chocolate is also thought to be a muscle relaxant, which can help to ease period cramps, and contains omega-3 and omega-6 components which can alleviate stress levels.
However, too much chocolate could make your period cramps worse thanks to theobromine, a stimulant found in chocolate.
Satisfy your cravings with these healthy swaps
If you find yourself craving chocolate around your period, there are plenty of ways to indulge without reaching for a family-sized selection box. Get the taste of chocolate without the blood sugar spike by combining it with a healthy source of protein.
Here are some protein-packed recipes to try:
Raspberry and dark chocolate skillet cookie
This extra chocolatey, extra easy skillet cookie is perfect for hitting your PMS cravings while delivering a healthy dose of protein. It’s indulgent, comforting and exactly what your body is calling for. Get the recipe here.
Homemade twix bars
Step away from the super processed bar and try this healthy version instead! These homemade twix bars are made with almond butter and real dark chocolate so they’re tastier and higher in antioxidants than the original.
Mini double chocolate protein doughnuts
These low fat, high protein doughnuts are refined sugar free and feature an extra luxurious chocolate frosting. Even better, they include Free Soul protein powder that’s specially formulated for women’s wellness with ingredients to help balance your hormones, reduce PMS and more. Try them for yourself with this recipe.
Gluten-free vegan cookie dough brownies
Love cookie dough but don’t love what it does to your body? These cookie dough brownies are made with fibre-packed chickpeas, coconut flour and applesauce. They’re also extra easy to make, see for yourself.
Chocolate cheesecake protein pots
These epic cheesecake pots are completely vegan and made with sweet potato, almond butter and cocoa powder. With the extra addition of Free Soul protein powder, they’re super high in protein too. Get the recipe here.
Too lazy to bake? Try these triple-layered dark chocolate protein bars
If you’re not in the mood for baking and would rather sit on the sofa bingeing your favourite comedies, reach for a Free Soul protein bar instead. Made with real cocoa and packed full of health-giving ingredients, this is the best way to beat your chocolate cravings while keeping your healthy eating plan on track.
Plus every bar contains less than 0.2g of sugar and 15g of protein. Find out more here.