National Chocolate Day: Let’s Talk About Period Cravings
Happy National Chocolate Day!
Arguably a menstruator’s favorite holiday…right?!
Chocolate is undoubtedly one of the most popular period cravings out there. Ever wonder why we associate this sweet treat with periods?
Thanks to information provided by Jenna Longoria, FDN-P, our Medical Board’s resident nutritionist and hormone expert, we’ve got some answers for you – as well as some of the funniest tweets we’ve seen over the years about period cravings!
Before we get into the food details, however, we have to understand PMS and how it provokes cravings…
What is PMS?
PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is sometimes worse than the blood part of periods...it's basically a collection of symptoms that menstruators get about a week or two before their period that can mimic pains that you experience during your period. PMS can also include mood changes and bloating.
Most people who menstruate (over 90%) say they get some variation of PMS, such as bloating, headaches, moodiness, and cravings.
Is it normal to have cravings during menstruation?
Cravings are not unusual during the premenstrual or menstrual times of the cycle. They are one of the most common symptoms of PMS.
What are period cravings? Why do you get them? (everything going on internally)
Basically, hormones and neurotransmitters are telling the body what it's lacking and points your body towards things that will boost its serotonin.
Your body actually releases serotonin (a chemical that boosts feelings of happiness) when you eat starchy foods and sweets. Nothing like feeding a period craving to alleviate your PMS down-mood.
Does chocolate really help with cramps and reduce cravings?
Gen Z answer:
Great news – yes, to a certain extent, chocolate can help with cramps. Specifically, dark chocolate which is rich in vitamins and minerals that do lots of good stuff for cramps!
What Our Nutritionist Says:
The potassium in dark chocolate stops your muscles from retaining water and feeling bloated. Dark chocolate contains vitamin A, B1, C, D, and E. In addition, it also contains antioxidants of phenol and flavonoids, rich in minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, a little omega 3 and 6, and high magnesium which can reduce menstrual and premenstrual pain.
Cramps can be a result of a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium also relaxes muscles and so it will relax the uterus and can reduce cramping. Magnesium is in chocolate. That said, choose dark chocolate (80% or higher) or raw cacao to eliminate dairy and sugar that can make cramps worse.
What are some good ideas to eat when having period cravings?
Eating more foods that are calcium-rich (nuts), low-fat dairy products, fish with bones (like salmon & sardines), fiber and items like tofu, broccoli, and bok choy are all great to eat during your period. Herbal teas like chamomile alleviate cravings too. Oh, and of course, remember to drink more water!
The August Medical Board’s nutritionist, Jenna Longoria suggests:
- Half plate of plants
- A quarter of plate with quality protein like wild caught fish, eggs, grass fed beef, turkey, legumes (nothing processed or factory farmed)
- Whole grains instead of refined grains
- Healthy fats like coconut oil, butter, avocado, olive oil instead of inflammatory fats like vegetable oil, soybean oil, canola oil, margarine, vegetable oil spreads that will cause inflammation and can lead to period pain.
What food should I stay away from when I’m on my period?
- Avoid foods high in saturated fats such as: butter, cream, bacon, and potato chips
- Limit salt to reduce fluid retention, abdominal bloating, breast swelling and pain
- High caffeine intake can cause irritability, poor sleep, and menstrual cramps so reduce that intake (if you have the will-power!)
How can I eat junk food while on my period without breaking out?
Clear skin or junk food – in this case you kinda have to choose one since high-fat and sugar can make you more acne-prone.
Try eating dark chocolate instead and have fruits for a sweet and vitamin filled snack. Other foods, like popcorn and nuts, are also great options!
Processed foods, dairy and sugary food will increase your chances of breaking out. However, don't hold yourself back from eating things that will make you feel better or happy! It's all about what makes you feel best on your period.
Get to know your own body and if you have any serious skin concerns, check in with a dermatologist!
Can my period change because of the food I eat?
Gen Z Answer:
Food and periods go hand-in-hand. The food you eat on your period won't change the texture of your blood, but it might change the poop! Instead of reaching for processed foods & sweets, try for a serving of a starchy carb like sweet potato with cinnamon instead. Eating lots of pizza & candy will just make one’s hormones even more imbalanced.
It's okay to have cravings, just try to eat healthier foods that still match those cravings – for example, berries!
What Our Nutritionist Says:
Yes. Our diet directly impacts our period. Eating an anti-inflammatory and blood sugar balancing diet will ensure balanced hormones and regular periods. Some research suggests that changes in the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone cause cravings for foods rich in carbohydrates and sugars before a menstrual cycle.
Eating regularly, and items that are nutritious helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, which may keep moods steady. Some research also suggests an association between binge eating and menstrual issues, such as irregular periods or an absence of periods.
PMS is real and cravings are no joke. It’s totally normal to crave ‘junk food’ but know that there are alternatives to dairy and high-starch foods that could actually help to minimize breakouts and menstrual cramps.
Above all else, it’s YOUR period so really, you should do (and eat) what you want to make your monthly experience more positive.
Read more about how August is trying to reimagine period care HERE and why our sustainable period products (tampons, liners and pads) are the healthy planet for you and the planet HERE!