It is common for women to crave for comfort foods before or during their period. One such comfort food that is dear to most women is Dark Chocolate. Ever wondered why do these cravings even happen in the first place? Psychologists say that the relation of comfort food cravings to menstrual cycles is due to a combination of physiology, psychology and cultural conditioning. Giving in to such cravings is not always recommended, especially if it’s for unhealthy foods such as those containing an excess of caffeine or saturated fats. But dark chocolate is one such craving that you may want to indulge in. Just watch out for the sugar content in dark chocolates. As, many dark chocolates contain 50 to 90 per cent cocoa solids, cocoa butter and sugar.
You might wonder why does dark chocolate have an upper hand when compared with normal chocolate? Well, although milk chocolate may taste great, it’s not really as good for you as dark chocolate is. This is primarily because milk chocolate contains fewer cocoa beans than dark chocolate does. Milk chocolate does contain cocoa solids but it’s often diluted with milk solids, plenty of sugar and cream.
Cocoa content is important here because it is a fabulous source of flavonoids – a special class of antioxidants that are the main reason why chocolate is considered such a tasty and healthy treat.
Studies have proven that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks straight reduces the level of stress hormones in people who are highly affected by stress. The main stress hormone that dark chocolate reduces is cortisol. It also helps reduce other stress-related biochemical changes as well as the “fight-or-flight” hormones known as catecholamines in highly stressed people.
Dark chocolate has also been found to improve mood by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain, which are also known as happy hormones. There are reports that also show pregnant women who eat more dark chocolate during pregnancy give birth to more stress-free babies.
Relieves menstrual cramps
Menstrual cramps are every woman’s nightmare, and dark chocolate can be considered as a panacea for treating these cramps. The potassium in dark chocolate stops your muscles from retaining water and feeling bloated.
Menstrual pain can be severe enough to interfere with day-to-day activities for a few days every month, particularly in activities at home and in schools for late adolescents. Dark chocolate is considered effective in reducing menstrual pain.
Menstrual pain or dysmenorrhea is stiffness or cramps in the lower abdomen that is caused due to menstruation and production of prostaglandin substances that occur during or before menstruation. 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 in women.
Helps with mood swings
Eating any kind of chocolate is often associated with happiness and celebrations. A study conducted by British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (2013) found that consuming chocolate can help improve your mood, making you feel calmer and more satisfied. Dark chocolate helps stimulate the production of endorphins, the chemical in the brain responsible for creating feelings of pleasure.
In addition, dark chocolate also contains serotonin, which is an antidepressant that can elevate your mood. Flavanols present in dark chocolate are proven to play a role in chocolate’s mood-boosting effects. All this said and done, psychologists advise against falling into the habit of finding comfort from food or turning to it in emotional times. Thus, even if dark chocolate is beneficial, it isn’t recommended to over-indulge in it or get addicted to its use.
When you hit a crash in energy in the afternoons, you might be tempted to drink coffee or have an energy bar. Consider switching to dark chocolate instead. For optimal benefits, select dark chocolate (higher cocoa content) over milk chocolate, and keep your indulgence to a moderate level. It is a natural energy elevator that contains caffeine and will increase your endorphins to give you a quick boost.
Dark chocolate can help boost nitric acid levels, which can help control blood pressure, and its antioxidant properties can neutralize free radicals, which cause cell damage and might even cause cancer. Even milk chocolate is an antioxidant, but not to the same level as dark chocolate.
Eating dark chocolate during your period in moderation can actually be good for you. The energizing and mood-boosting powers of dark chocolate come from the caffeine present in it and other stimulants, including theobromine and tryptophan – which is a precursor to serotonin, a compound that helps you to feel calm.
If the benefits weren’t already enough, it turns out that dark chocolate is also an excellent source of iron and can help you improve your blood haemoglobin levels. A 100 g serving of good quality dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa solids) has almost 11.9 mg of iron. It also contains about 598 calories, so don’t over indulge in it.
Improves your skin
Whether you eat dark chocolate raw, add it to your hot chocolate recipe, or use it as a topical beauty treatment, here’s what this indulgent food can do for your skin:
- Protection from sun damage
According to research, eating dark chocolate gives you a smoother and softer skin texture, 25% less skin redness when exposed to the sun, and skin hydration for prolonged periods. Flavonoids in chocolate help in reflecting harmful UV rays off your skin, preventing sunburn and diseases like skin cancer. Dark chocolate is also known to help fight skin discolouration.
- Prevents premature ageing
Dark chocolate helps lighten and reduce dark spots and pigmentation and keeps skin glowing and healthy. It also works to keep skin moisturised and keeps the hydration locked in, improves collagen content, and boosts blood circulation, all of which helps delay the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Promotes cell growth for healthier skin
Essential minerals can be found in dark chocolate like copper, iron, and zinc that are proven to promote cell growth and nourish your skin, keeping it looking younger. Dark chocolate also detoxifies skin and helps you get rid of dead skin cells, helping your skin look fresh and radiant.
- Heals skin and reduces scars
Dark chocolate is enriched with minerals that increase cell regeneration and healing. In addition to revealing smooth skin by removing off dead skin cells, dark chocolate also lightens skin scars and blemishes.
- Reduces stress
High levels of stress can wreak havoc on your skin, and as dark chocolate is a stress buster, it reduces skin damage due to stress.
- Reduces inflammation
Chronic inflammation keeps your skin prone to permanent damage. Flavanols in dark chocolate help reduce inflammation of the skin, helping with skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, and keeping the skin look youthful and radiant.
Helps relax your aching muscles
Dark chocolate contains a good amount of magnesium, which has been known to be an effective remedy for sore muscles. The hips, abdomen and thighs can feel sore during periods and magnesium traces in dark chocolate can help considerably to relieve the pain.
It is safe to conclude that dark chocolate has a plethora of benefits, especially for a woman on her period, if consumed in a limited quantity. & Me’s Period Chocolates are the perfect answer to your period cravings. Indulge now with &Me’s no sugar dark chocolates, specifically designed to take the edge off period cravings and mood swings with 30% goodness of vitamins, minerals, and herbs essential for women during their periods!. Available in two irrepressible flavours – almonds & sea salt and cranberry. So if your time of the month is nearing, stock up some good dark chocolate and treat yourself! Just don’t forget to check the sugar content and calorie intake level in your dark chocolate.