As women, most of us have used our periods as an excuse for eating mounds of chocolate before. I personally keep a stash of chocolate in my freezer for any such occasion, especially for indulging around that time of the month. There's no doubt that we, as a society, tend to automatically connect chocolate with every PMS scene in every movie ever, but does chocolate help your period in real life?
Well, yes and no. Basically, you're right that your body is craving something like chocolate when you're PMSing, or in the middle of a super bad cramp session, but that doesn't necessarily mean that chocolate will "heal" you, so to speak.
In fact, your body isn't really craving chocolate, so much as it's hungry for the combination of calcium, sugar, and carbs that are found within chocolate, and as it turns out, you'd be better off finding those ingredients elsewhere than inside of a chocolate wrapper.
We tend to crave chocolate during the early parts of our menstrual cycles because of the higher levels of hormones floating around the body. These hormones are triggered by an increase of insulin, which then leads to low blood sugar, and voila — your body is practically begging you to throw a Reese's Cup its way.
But in reality, eating the chocolate you crave might lead to more physical pain, even if it alleviates your emotional distress.
Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine, which can occasionally lead to increased pain and discomfort, not less. And, more specifically, super sweet chocolate can actually make you feel more emotional because of all the sugar, caffeine, and theobromine contents inside.
Instead of eating chocolate, LIVESTRONG advises you to take a calcium supplement instead, which gives you all of the nutritional benefits without any of the aggravation found within some of chocolate's ingredients.
Although, I have to say, taking a calcium pill surely won't provide the same sense of satisfaction as strolling down the candy aisle of a gas station after you pulled the car over in a PMS-induced, crave-driven moment of desire.
Dark chocolate, on the other hand, can absolutely soothe your emotional stress, as well as provide some physical health benefits.
Finally, some good news on the chocolate front — if you eat dark chocolate with over 70 percent cocoa, that is. This type of chocolate will relax your muscles, and it also contains magnesium, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids. These will all help to boost your mood without giving you that deceptive sugar high followed by the resulting crash. Oh, and dark chocolate makes you live longer, too, so there's that.
With all of this said, there's nothing wrong with giving in to indulgence when you're feeling crappy. A lot of our cravings may be chemical, but they're also cultural, meaning that we've been raised to think that chocolate is what you eat when you're sad, so this "learned information" turns itself into a craving that feels instinctual, but really isn't.
Bottom line: Feel free to eat chocolate to ease your menstrual pain, but do so in moderation, and with a grain of salt.
There's no scientific proof that chocolate will reduce your pain, but there's plenty of reason to believe that chocolate can comfort you on a mental and psychological level, and in some cases — especially when it comes to PMS — that's just as important.
In fact, research shows that chocolate can turn around your bad mood in as little as three minutes, which is as good a reason as any to keep some stowed away in your car (and your bag, and your bedside table drawer) at all times.
If you do decide to eat some chocolate, try to do it slowly, rather than giving into the urge to stuff your face with that block-pound of chocolate from Trader Joe's (#BeenThere). Otherwise, you might end up getting that dreaded, sugar-induced rush-and-crash, which is sure to leave you feeling worse than you did at the beginning of all of this.