Both men and women crave chocolate, but far more women than men experience chocolate cravings. Why do women crave chocolate more than men? Chocolate cravings may be linked to low blood sugar, stress or changing hormonal levels prior to a woman's menstrual cycle.
Chocolate and Blood Sugar Levels
The sugar and caffeine in chocolate raise your blood sugar levels. Dark chocolate is low on the glycemic index, so it can even help stabilize blood sugar levels safely. One reason why many women and men sometimes crave chocolate is because their blood sugar levels have fallen and chocolate provides a hit of sugar for quick energy. If you find yourself feeling moody, irritable, shaky and fatigued, especially between meals, then your chocolate cravings may be the result of low blood sugar levels.
Chocolate and Serotonin Levels
Eating chocolate makes you feel good, because it increases levels of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of well-being and enhanced mood. Many women experience lowered serotonin levels in the 7 to 10 days prior to their menstrual periods, which is one reason why premenstrual women often have powerful cravings for chocolate.
High levels of stress can also make women and men crave chocolate, since increasing serotonin levels can also lead to significant reductions in anxiety. Chocolate is a popular comfort food. It is chosen by emotional eaters, since eating it can raise serotonin levels and help comfort eaters forget about emotional or other problems, low self-esteem or mildly depressed mood.
Chocolate and the Menstrual Cycle
Besides caffeine, fat and sugar, chocolate also contains important trace minerals, like magnesium, which may be deficient in women prior to and during their menstrual cycles. Changing hormonal levels prior to and during the menstrual cycle can inspire all kinds of food cravings, and chocolate is one of them. In fact, many women claim to crave nothing else.
Some researchers claim that chocolate cravings in menstruating women may be a cultural phenomenon. Studies have shown that American women are more likely to crave chocolate than women of other nationalities, perhaps because they're concerned about the high levels of sugar and fat in chocolate and therefore consider it an indulgence. Some experts believe that chocolate cravings in menstruating women may be largely psychological, since they feel that premenstrual symptoms give them a socially acceptable reason to eat chocolate, a high fat food.
Chocolate May Be Addictive
Some research has shown that chocolate contains the same alkaloid compounds that make alcohol addictive, so experts believe there may be some basis to consider chocolate physiologically addictive. It also contains a compound called anandamine, which, scientists believe, stimulates the brain in the same way as marijuana. However, there remains much debate in the medical community as to whether chocolate contains enough of these compounds to be truly addictive or psychoactive.
Chocolate is Just Plain Good
One last reason why women may crave chocolate is because it's good. Chocolate's taste and texture is delicious and unlike that of any other food, which may explain why many women crave it specifically.