The Real Reason You Crave Chocolate When You're On Your Period

You know when that time of the month has arrived because your chocolate cravings are through the roof. But why do you crave chocolate when you're on your period? Is it the hormone fluctuations or something else?

There are huge fluctuations with two main hormones during your period — estrogen and progesterone. About half of American women crave chocolate around the start of their periods. So, is it the hormones? Maybe there's something in chocolate that alleviates the array of period symptoms. However, women in other countries don't crave chocolate as much as American women do. Only 28% of Spanish women crave chocolate, and only 6% of Egyptian women do. That's a considerable difference (via a 2017 study in PLOS One).

Craving chocolate might just be a learned behavior, since women in the United States crave chocolate more than those in other countries. You've learned that it's okay to give in to your craving for something high in fat and carbs during your period and that your relatives and friends also crave chocolate, so you do the same thing (via Psychology Today).

Does that mean you can't blame it on the hormones? Nope. Hormones do play a part in your period cravings for something sweet and high in carbs, according to a 2016 study in The Journal of Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

How to opt for healthier foods during period cravings

Go ahead and indulge in your favorite foods whenever you want. Period cravings are common, and you can enjoy some junk food every once in a while. It's all about moderation. But you might want some healthier alternatives to calm your food cravings because those foods high in calories, fat, salt, and sugar can make your period symptoms worse (via Bustle). 

Some foods can help alleviate your period symptoms such as cramps, bloating, nausea, fatigue, headaches, mood swings, and diarrhea. Drink plenty of water. Eat leafy greens, ginger, chicken, fish, turmeric, dark chocolate, nuts, flaxseed oil, quinoa, lentils, beans, yogurt, tofu, and sip kombucha for some symptom relief (via Healthline). 

Craving carbs? Eat them! But instead of simple carbs, reach for complex carbs like whole grains — brown rice and oatmeal and fruits and beans. They contain carbs, but they also have lots of nutrients. 

Cravings sweets? Grab some fruit to help satisfy those sugar cravings and keep you hydrated. Grapes and mangoes are especially sweet, helping to curb those sugar cravings. 

Craving chocolate? Go for dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate (via CNN and SimpleMost). Not only can dark chocolate curb those chocolate cravings on your period, but it can even help your symptoms. 

Can dark chocolate help period cramps?

Period cramps are the worst, and you're probably always looking for something to help soothe the pain. Dark chocolate can help. 

Dark chocolate was shown to reduce period cramp pain in a small study of 50 single women ages 18 to 21. They all had a regular menstrual cycle and experienced cramps. 25 women were given dark chocolate for three days at the start of their period, and the other 25 were given milk chocolate. Those given dark chocolate experienced reduced pain (via a 2017 study).

Another study separated 150 participants into three groups. One was given 250 milligrams of magnesium, one was given 250 milligrams of magnesium and 40 milligrams of vitamin B6, and the other a placebo. The group that was given magnesium and vitamin B6 experienced lower premenstrual syndrome (PMS), according to the 2010 study

Guess what's filled with magnesium? You guessed it — dark chocolate! One bar of 70 to 85% dark chocolate has up to 230 milligrams of magnesium. It even has a bit of vitamin B6, but only 0.038 micrograms (via USDA). It's possible you're craving chocolate when you're on your period because you need the magnesium. Reach for dark chocolate with at least 85% cocoa for the best results, including helping with bloating and boosting serotonin, according to Redbook