Ever had a massive girl stereotype moment when you find yourself gravitating towards the chocolate aisle during your period? Previously, we’ve discussed 5 Hacks for Menstrual Cramp Relief, with chocolates being one of the hacks – But how true is that? What if we told you that there is a legitimate scientific reason for that? Yes, we do mean SCIENCE – true-blue BIOLOGICAL SCIENCE.
Believe it or not, chocolates are power-packed with healthy chemicals and nutrients with properties able to alleviate our menstrual pains, give our mood a boost, and MORE!
Before we begin, let’s start with a little background knowledge…
What actually causes menstrual cramps?
The culprit of those awful cramps? Prostaglandins. They are a type of hormones released from the uterine walls during menstruation that causes inflammation and contractions. This is otherwise what we commonly come to know as menstrual cramps – due to a high level of prostaglandins.
Find out more about menstrual cramps here.
Why then, do we crave chocolate on our period?
Actually, your body isn’t really craving for chocolate – it is in fact starved for the concoction of calcium, sugar, and carbohydrates – all of which can be found within chocolate. Due to the high levels of various hormones in our body in the early stages of our period, an increase in insulin is triggered, leading to an eventual reduction in blood sugar level. As a result of all these chain reactions, it is no wonder your body is basically begging for a dose of some chocolatey goodness.
But are all types of chocolate effective for relieving menstrual-related symptoms like cramps?
Well, yes and no.
Let me explain.
Regular chocolates (think white or milk chocolate) with a cocoa percentage of less than 70% may actually be in fact more detrimental for your menstrual cramps.
Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine, which can occasionally lead to increased pain and discomfort. More specifically, super sweet chocolate can actually make you feel more emotional because of all the sugar, caffeine, and theobromine contents inside. (Remember when we discussed cutting back on caffeine to reduce menstrual cramps?)
This is the reason why it is sometimes advised to instead take calcium supplements that can give you the same nutritional benefits without any of the possible aggravations that could result from chocolates’ ingredients.
Although, I must say, simply popping some pills will definitely not give the same satisfaction as slowly unwrapping that delicious bar of chocolate before chomping down on it, right?
Here comes the good news:
Dark chocolate (>70% cocoa) is able to both soothe your emotional stress as well as provide some relief to period symptoms.
The higher the cocoa percentage, the better!
Here are some of the benefits dark chocolate have:
Crunch the Cramps
First and also most importantly, dark chocolate contains high levels of magnesium. Magnesium plays a role in neuromuscular transmission and muscular contraction – it has been hypothesised that magnesium deficiency predisposes to muscle cramps.
Hence, dark chocolate is able to relax and soothe the raging contracting muscles causing your painful cramps!
Secondly, dark chocolate contains cocoa flavanol.
Flavanols are naturally-occurring compounds found in food. Found in better quality chocolates, cocoa flavanol is known for its powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These also help to increase blood circulation and thus alleviating menstrual cramps. An improved blood flow has also been shown to be correlated with elevated cognitive activities. Sweet!
Beat the Bloat
Dark chocolate contains high levels of potassium, an amazing mineral and electrolyte responsible for regulating sodium levels and promoting water balance in the body.
Feeling a little bloated during your period? Eat some dark chocolates to combat the discomfort.
Happy Hormones Hopping in!
When we eat chocolate, chemicals known as neurotransmitters are released into the brain and circulates our nervous system. Some of these neurotransmitters are:
- Endorphins: Our body’s natural painkillers
- Serotonin: Helps boost our mood
- Dopamine: Gives us a sense of well-being and satisfaction.
Together, these chemicals are able to give us a boost both emotionally and physically to help fight those menstrual miseries!
More sweets, Less Stress
Apart from the mood boosting hormones released mentioned above, studies have found that consuming 40g of dark chocolate every day for two weeks has the ability to reduce levels of cortisol (a stress hormone).
Less cortisol means brain signals of stress are dulled and our perception of stress is significantly lowered.
There you go, one more reason to binge on chocolates due to stress-eating…
FE-eling good with Iron
Not so commonly known is that dark chocolate also contains a high iron content, a formidable contender to beef with iron levels ranging from 6.32mg to 11.9mg per 100g as compared to 2.6mg per 100g in beef. Iron is essential for transporting oxygen around our body stored in red blood cells.
Simply-put in layman terms, iron is essential for us to have ‘enough blood’ so we don’t become iron-deficient or even anaemic in the event we lose too much blood, especially during menstruation. This also probably explains why we feel the most sluggish and lethargic during that time of the month.
Glow with the Flow
For most of us, especially those still in the midst of puberty, period week is synonymous with breakout week. Contrary to popular belief, although the high sugar content in other chocolates could worsen a breakout, but dark chocolates (in small proportions) can actually be amazing for your skin.
With a cocktail of detoxifying nutrients, cocoa flavanols and effects of reduced stress, dark chocolate consumed when on your period have been found to be correlated with improved skin and even protecting it from UV light.
So, the next time you find yourself reaching out for that bar of chocolate during your period, let your intrinsic nature take over and go ahead with the indulgence! Of course, in spite of dark chocolate and all its beneficial glory, bear in mind to take everything in moderation, even all these chocolatey goodness!
Take care and we’ll see you next time!