Ever felt like a massive stereotype when you gravitate towards the chocolate aisle during your period? Well, what if we told you there is science, yes SCIENCE, to justify all that hankering? Believe it or not, chocolate is totally choc-a-bloc with healthy chemicals and nutrients that have the ability to soothe menstrual pain and boost your mood in a big way. So next time you’re stocking up on period supplies, stop looking so sheepish and give in to those chocolate cravings – there is pretty interesting research suggesting that yes, eating chocolate does help with your period pain!
Does Your Period Cramp Your Style?
Wanna know the culprit of those awful period cramps? Prostaglandins, that’s what. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances released from the uterine walls during menstruation, causing inflammation and unpleasant contractions. In cases of severe cramps, it’s likely there is a higher level of prostaglandins to blame. The good news? Dark chocolate just so happens to be one of the richest sources of magnesium, an awesome muscle relaxant that basically says “chill” to your uterus. For comparison, 1 square of dark chocolate contains 95 mg of magnesium compared to a medium-sized banana that only has 32 mg!
Just be mindful if you suffer from migraines. Not only can they be triggered by the ebb and flow of your hormones during or just before menstruation, but dark chocolate can also be an unfortunately delicious trigger.
Here Come The Happy Chemicals!
When we eat chocolate, chemicals known as neurotransmitters are released into the brain, sending signals around the nervous system. These include endorphins, our nifty natural painkillers, serotonin which boosts our mood, and dopamine which gives us a strong sense of well-being. Together these chemicals can give us emotional and physical energy and dampen those menstrual miseries.
Beat The Bloat
Dark chocolate contains high levels of potassium, an awesome mineral and electrolyte responsible for regulating sodium levels and promoting water balance around the body. So, if you’re used to feeling bloated leading up to and during your period, eating some dark chocolate can help combat discomfort, so you’ll no longer need (or feel like) a big ol’ hot water bottle.
Iron – Fe-Eling Good
Little celebrated and unjustly overlooked for its super high iron content, dark chocolate is a formidable contender to beef with 11.9mg of iron per 100g compared to beef’s paltry 1.66mg. A vitally important mineral, iron assists with the transportation of oxygen around the body in red blood cells. Loss of blood during menstruation is not enough to make us iron deficient or anaemic (except in severe cases) however it can go some way to explaining why this is often our most lethargic and sluggish time of the month.
Sweet Stress Relief
Dark chocolate has been linked to improving cardiovascular health and as an excellent stress-buster. In one Swiss study, researchers determined that eating 1.4 ounces (40 grams) of dark chocolate every day for two weeks had significantly reduced levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in its test subjects. Less cortisol means brain signals of stress are dulled and our perception of stress is significantly lowered. Only the Swiss could find a way to justify gorging on chocolate, right?
Good quality chocolate is super rich in cocoa flavanols, a group of nutrients known for their powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Flavanols help to improve blood flow so can help to alleviate painful cramps and are also linked to increased cognitive activity. Sweet!
Aunt Flo, More Like Aunt Glo
For many of us, getting your period means acne break out of Shawshank Redemption proportions. And contrary to popular belief, chocolate can be amazing for your skin. Combining the effects of reduced stress, detoxifying nutrients and cocoa flavanols, eating dark chocolate on your period has been linked with improving skin and actually protecting it from UV light.
In Cocoa-clusion, Chocolate is the Way to Go
Of course, not all of these effects may make a difference to your very worst menstrual symptoms. But there are worse things to try, right? Just remember, the best way to attain these benefits is to stick to the good stuff – dark chocolate (the higher the % of cocoa the better) and abide by the age-old rule “everything in moderation”. You still need plenty of water and fresh veg when you’re on your period too!
A collective group of “lady experts” at Intimina who love sharing our personal experiences, even when they are a little too personal. We believe it’s time to start breaking down the taboos around menstruation, motherhood, and menopause, and start owning our female health.