Here’s Why You Might Crave Chocolate During Your Period

If you crave sugar during that time of the month, an expert explains why that might be the case.

You might be a stickler for healthy eating, indulging only in the odd square of dark chocolate in the evenings before waking up to a glass of green juice and granola, but when that time of the month rolls around, any pretences of healthy eating go out the window. Suddenly, you find yourself raiding the fridge and kitchen cupboards for any kind of sugary treat, be it chocolate or left-over candy from a party bag from decades past. If you’ve found yourself questioning just why you turn to the junk food before and during your period, you’re not alone. 

When it comes to our menstrual cycles and cravings, there’s not much evidence to suggest that cravings for chocolate and sugar around our periods are anything other than a learned behaviour and comfort food. As Reema Patel, a London Dietitian for Dietitian Fit and Co explains to Glamour, hunger levels increase at the beginning of the period as progesterone and oestrogen levels drop. 

“There is also an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, and a reduction in our feel-good hormone, serotonin. There is a theory that to help boost serotonin hormone levels, we eat food that makes us feel good. However, there is no strong evidence for this link between hormones and cravings yet. Women still report chocolate cravings, despite not being on their period or after menopause,” she tells the publication. 

For some, cravings are simply a learned behaviour as we come to anticipate something sweet during this time as it’s what we’ve become used to. While we might love the taste and texture of chocolate, it also releases dopamine (a reward hormone) thanks to the combination of fats and sugars, and so we see it as a positive reward mechanism. 

While our cravings for chocolate might be little else than a reward mechanism that’s become entrenched in our minds through repetition, it’s not all bad news. As Laura Southern, a nutritional therapist at London Gynaecology, explains to Glamour, “Chocolate is an antioxidant – so it can help reduce inflammation and increase brain function, both things our body might crave before our period. It’s also high in magnesium which is calming, can help induce sleep, and is sometimes referred to as ‘natures tranquilliser.’ So eating chocolate which is high in magnesium might make us feel more calm, relaxed and also help with muscle contractions, so it could help ease period cramps,” she says. 

woman wearing pad on period
Image: Instagram/ @hotdotlena by @ladyist⁠

That said, hunger before your period that extends beyond just a craving for chocolate can serve as an indication that your body needs more of a certain nutrient. It’s well documented that iron can decrease in people with heavy menstrual flow, and increased hunger may signify that it needs to be replenished. Low levels of magnesium and vitamin D have also been shown to increase PMS symptoms. 

In this case, consider eating foods that are going to nourish your body and give it plenty of the nutrients it needs. Foods like leafy green vegetables, meat, soy protein, nuts, seeds, dry beans, whole grains, wheat germ, wheat and oat bran are excellent sources to start with. 

As Dr Claudia Pastorelli Mosca, medical advisor at Flo Health, tells Glamour, it’s also worth noting when you are eating during the day. “Around your period, it may feel good to eat smaller portions but more frequently. This prevents your blood sugar from crashing or spiking. You can try to stick to foods high in protein and fibre, which are more satisfying and improve digestion,” she says. 

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