Most of us are well acquainted with the following scenario: You’ve been following your well-oiled routine of regularly eating healthy, balanced meals, getting enough exercise and rest; then one morning out of the blue it strikes! PMS (premenstrual syndrome) or your period has arrived, and you wake up with a sudden unbridled urge to eat every chocolatey, sugary, salty, fatty delight in sight.
If you’re asking yourself, Why do I crave chocolate on my period?, fear not, you haven’t transformed into Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster overnight. Rather, it’s the significant influence of hormones on your body during your menstrual cycle. 8fit’s Coach Lisa uncovers the mystery behind PMS food cravings.
The role of hormones
Hormones control everything from mood, energy, weight, and appetite. Women may have more difficulty controlling hunger than men due to differences in body composition and appetite, influenced by reproductive hormones. The reason for this is the primal biological mechanism built into the body’s menstrual cycle, which prepares the body for pregnancy every 28-days (of course this varies from person to person). The body starts to prepare itself for future energy needs and storage. Think about it, your body is wired to lay the groundwork for the conception and gestation of potential offspring.
Understanding your menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle can be divided into four phases:
Phase 1 Now’s where it all begins. Day 1 of your cycle starts off when you get period, with menstruation lasting anywhere between 1-4 days.
Phase 2 Follicular phase, is part of the actual menstruation period and extends up to 13 days. This phase is your body preparing for ovulation.
Phase 3 Ovulation — your egg has arrived! At this point, the matured egg has been released, and you’re at your most fertile and likely to get pregnant, a window that lasts between day 13-15.
Phase 4 Ring the alarm, days 15-28 we’re in the PMS zone! This is also called the luteal phase and is when your body starts to produce more progesterone, helping your uterus build the uterine lining to host a potentially fertilized egg.
During the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, you’ll tend to burn more energy. The more energy burned = the more energy needed, typically in the form of foods high in carbohydrates and fat; hence the burning desire for ice cream, pizza, and chocolate bars. Moreover, at this time progesterone levels are elevated, resulting in an increased desire for fatty foods. A delicate time for most — so hand over the chocolate and nobody gets hurt!
Why do women crave chocolate on their period?
Studies show that chocolate most frequently craved food among women and these cravings peak in the luteal phase. If you’re wondering how to control PMS cravings, then having a small amount (approximately 1 ounce) of 80% dark chocolate per day can help curb the desire, so you don’t veer too far off course from your nutritional routine.
The reason we prefer dark chocolate is due to its high antioxidant content and because it can better satisfy cravings in comparison to milk chocolate which is higher in sugar and fat. The bonus is dark chocolate also contains magnesium, which can reduce period cramps. However, keep in mind that store-bought chocolate has added sugar and should be enjoyed mindfully and in moderation.
Choc-tastic recipes to curb cravings
That being said, life (even a healthy one) is still better with chocolate! So if you’re going to indulge, we won’t leave you in the lurch, with our favorite 8fit emergency go to chocolate-based recipes, we guarantee to tame the chocolate craving beast inside.
If you like your chocolate treats silky smooth, then this creamy chocolate avocado dessert is just the ticket! It ticks all the same boxes as a chocolate mousse, but in this recipe, the avocado nourishes your body with healthy fats, satisfying cravings for longer.
Dark chocolate with almonds
Do you need chocolate and need it now? If you don’t have the patience to whip something up and need to soothe those cravings ASAP, then snap off a square or two of dark chocolate. Just make sure to eat it with some protein-dense nuts, like almonds, as it will stabilize your blood sugar levels, keeping future cravings at bay.
Chocolate peanut chia bar
Let’s all cheer for chia! Why? Because not only do you need very little to feel fuller faster, but they’re also brimming with soluble fiber, which will ease any period-related digestive discomfort you may have.
Chocolate, banana & peanut butter ice cream
Got a case of the PMS blues? Then curl up on the couch with a soothing hot water bottle and a sumptuous bowl of this homemade ice cream. This divine dessert will satisfy your cravings for sweet and salty at the same time. Plus, the tryptophan in peanuts is a precursor to serotonin, which will aid in elevating your low mood. It’s literally happiness in a bowl.
All sweetness and light…not!
Do you have days where when it comes to the choice between chocolate cake and your partner, chocolate cake wins hands-down? If you’re wondering how to control PMS cravings and keep things ‘sweet’ between you and partner, then just add a few pieces of fruit to your day. Yup, that’s all there is to it — fruit is nature’s candy and contains natural sugars as well as vital vitamins and minerals to get your body working well even under testing menstrual circumstances.
In addition, the fiber in fruit helps slow the absorption, so you don’t get the sugar boost and moody blues. We suggest you pair your fruit with protein because it will not only keep you fuller for longer but helps prevent further cravings.
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How to control PMS cravings
PMS can vary in intensity and make some of some people feel depressed, angry, anxious, irritable. Reduce the menstrual emotional roller coaster ride by calming the internal storm with a complex carbohydrate-rich diet (whole grain bread, pasta, and oats, brown rice, beans, and lentils). Including more of these healthy carbs into your diet will alleviate PMS symptoms and food cravings, without derailing your healthy eating habits.
Eating frequently, about every 3-4 hours, will go a long way to stabilize your blood sugar, which in turn balances your mood. Aim to avoid eating processed foods, refined sugars, and cut down on salt too, as they tend to affect your body negatively even when not PMSing. Limit caffeine and alcohol as they also aggravate PMS symptoms as well as induce headaches, fatigue, and cramps.