Ah, chocolate – the food women report craving more so than any other. Of course, men can also be susceptible to chocolate cravings, but significantly more women than men report ‘needing’ it.
For some women, these cravings only happen around their menstrual cycle, and for others, it’s an urge that can come on at any time.
While there is no single, definitive answer to explain women’s love affair with chocolate, there are several theories.
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has been shown to increase serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. When serotonin levels are low, it often leads to depression, anxiety and an overall sense of the blues.
Many women feel extra-stressed before and during menstruation, as cortisol, the stress hormone, frequently elevates during this time, and chocolate can provide the desired mood boost.
The serotonin content of chocolate also explains why larger quantities of chocolate are eaten in winter than any other season. As many people become deficient in vitamin D in the winter months, due to lack of sunlight, and may experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), chocolate can help balance out the winter blahs.
Chocolate also contains magnesium, which is often low in women during their menstrual cycles. The urge to eat chocolate is thought by some to be instinctually tied to the replenishment of this mineral.
Additionally, a chemical in chocolate, phenylethylamine (PEA), has been shown to stimulate the brain in a similar way to falling in love, with increased heart rate and a slight increase in blood pressure. This sensation may definitely lead to a recurrent desire for chocolate, no matter what time of the month it may be.
A study published in 2004 in Appetite magazine highlights another theory behind women and chocolate – cultural conditioning. Researchers surveyed American and Spanish women who reported craving chocolate as to when they craved it.
Forty percent of the American women reported craving chocolate around their menstrual cycles, while only four percent of the Spanish women singled out this time for their chocolate cravings. This suggests that cultural attitudes, and perhaps advertising, are at least partially responsible for women turning to chocolate specifically during their time of the month.
Regardless of the ‘why,’ if you’re going to indulge a chocolate craving, make it organic, raw dark chocolate. In its raw state, dark chocolate is actually a superfood, and presents a great deal of health benefits , including B-vitamins, protein, fiber and anti-inflammatory flavonoid antioxidants. In moderation, feeding your chocolate cravings, if you choose real chocolate, may not be such a bad thing.
If you want to sweeten your chocolate, melt it slowly in a double boiler, and add organic coconut crystals to taste. Drizzle over your favorite fruits or raw nuts, and you’ve got a healthy snack that can also feed your chocolate fix!
-The Alternative Daily