By staff writer, Marissa Cohen
There’s nothing better than a generous hunk of rich, dark chocolate. And there’s no better time to enjoy it than before and during your period. Your cravings for chocolate may be more real than you think. The nutrients found in cacao, the raw ingredient in chocolate, can actually benefit your body by improving mood swings, reducing cramps, and increasing iron levels throughout your period.
Why we Crave Chocolate in the First Place
Food cravings leading up to your period are caused by a fluctuation in hormone levels. Prior to menstruation, levels of serotonin, the chemical responsible for mood regulation, can decrease, causing many women to experience mood swings. Consuming carbohydrates and sugar elevates serotonin levels, explaining why we crave these so-called “comfort foods” during this time of month. Additionally, when hormone levels are heightened during menstruation, insulin increases and blood sugar decreases. This dip in blood sugar can lead to cravings for sweets to bring the body back to balance.
Chocolate as a Superfood
While processed candy bars may not be the best options on the market, chocolate made with good quality cacao beans and low glycemic sweeteners is considered by many to be a superfood. In its pure form, cacao is full of magnesium, which helps relax muscles and release tension from cramping; iron, which is normally decreased during menstrual bleeding; and antioxidants, which help combat the effects of inflammation.
Additionally, cacao butter, which is mixed with the cacao power in chocolate bars, contains high levels of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids that help to balance hormone levels. Hormones are formed from fat and cholesterol, so increasing consumption of healthy fats supports hormone production. Furthermore, fats are required to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. Nutrient deficiencies can lead to further hormonal imbalances, validating the importance of incorporating healthy fats in one’s diet.
Choose Your Chocolate Wisely
Our cravings for chocolate demonstrate how intelligent our bodies really are. Cacao contains the specific nutrients we may be lacking during our periods, explaining the psychological and physical urge to break into the brownies. Being choosy about the chocolate you consume is important in order to ensure you are getting all of its wonderful benefits. We recommend looking for a variety that contains 70% or higher cacao, is made with a sweetener like maple syrup, honey, stevia, or monk fruit, and ideally is organic and fair-trade. Once you check all those boxes, it’s time to break into the bar.