Chocolate craving, the science behind it!
Food craving are common, particularly among women. When a person experience craving, they will have intense desire for a specific food which is commonly high in both sugar and fat. This desire can seem uncontrollable and the person’s hunger may not be satisfied until they get that particular food. As a food high in both sugar and fat, chocolate is one of the most commonly craved foods (3,5,10).
Chocolate craving is purely sensory as it has a set of extremely appealing sensory characteristics. The fat in chocolate (cocoa butter) melts at body temperature producing a distinctive and pleasant oral sensation. Moreover, chocolate also has a very attractive aroma (7).
There are several reasons people crave for chocolate and women tend to desire chocolate much more than men. Chocolate tend to boost your mood as well as to lower your stress level. It also contains some magnesium which women tend to be deficient in and thus this could explain why women seem to crave chocolate more than men. In general, people crave chocolate because it tastes good, it smells good and it feels awesome when it melts in our mouth (7).
The Science Behind Chocolate
Chocolate is a complex mixture which contains over 800 compounds. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate and ruby chocolate being the most recent which are made with varying proportions of chocolate, liquor, cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk and sugar. Cocoa is a source of flavinoids and alkalinoids (theobromine and phenethylamine) and caffeine which act as stimulants to the central nervous system. It also contains cannabinoids-anandamide which is known to induce a state of happiness (2).
#1 Chocolate, the mood booster (6)!
Chocolate makes you feel happy and relax as it will release feel good neurotransmitters and thus, people often crave chocolate in stressful situation or crave when they are in need of comfort.
Dopamine is released into your brain when you eat chocolate which give you joy and make you happy as well as to lower your stress level. Serotonin allows us to be content, relieve depression and calming anxiety.
#2 Chocolate craving and magnesium deficiency (4)
Unstoppable chocolate craving may indicates magnesium deficiency which is most common in women. Magnesium deficiency may cause symptoms including migraine, irritability, anxiety, extreme fatigue, insomnia and lack of concentration.
So, if you find yourself suffering from these symptoms and crave chocolate it may not just be a sweet tooth you have. Try eating good quality dark chocolate bar or try magnesium supplement to curb those craving that you have.
#3 Chocolate craving and menstrual cycle (8)
Food cravings are one of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, also known as PMS. In general, PMS is caused by hormonal fluctuations and how they affect chemical messengers in the brain, neurotransmitters. Antioxidant, anandamide in chocolate has a calming effect when combined with serotonin and tryptophan. These chemicals can boost your mood and make you feel better during your period.
#4 Antioxidants in chocolate
Dark chocolate rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc as well as contains several compounds that possess antioxidant properties (flavanols and polyphenols). When comparing the amount of antioxidants of dark chocolate, hot chocolate mix and fruit juices, study found that both dark chocolate and cocoa had a greater antioxidant capacity and greater total flavanols and polyphenols. Decent amounts of antioxidants in dark chocolate may promote healthy blood flow and blood pressure as well as anti-aging (9).
However, we would need to consume large amount of dark chocolate to get enough antioxidants to see the benefits. Milk chocolate often the chocolate of choice and it has negligible antioxidant content, especially for the amount of sugar it contains. Most processed chocolate contains high fructose corn syrup and other additives.
If you are in it for the antioxidants, consume really high quality dark chocolate with minimal sugar. If antioxidants are your priority, consider other foods like organic berries.
Eat It or Leave It (1)?
Most chocolate falls into one of three categories: milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate. The darkness of chocolate is determined by the proportion of cocoa solids mixed with cocoa butter and sugar. Milk chocolate contains about 10% cocoa liquor that contains both non-fat cocoa solids and cocoa butter compared with a minimum 35% found in dark chocolate. Meanwhile, white chocolate contains only cocoa butter.
The amount of cocoa solid in an important indicator of the amount of dietary flavonoids which are found in fruits and vegetables. Most dark chocolate is high in flavonoids but milk chocolate is usually the chocolate of choice due to it sweet taste (about twice the sugar of dark chocolate). If you enjoy chocolate, choose the high quality dark chocolate with minimal sugar. Eat it in moderation because you like it, not because you think it is good for you.
- American Heart Association. 2019. Are there health benefits from chocolate? Available from https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/02/12/are-there-health-benefits-from-chocolate [Accessed on 30 April 2020].
- Chinmayi, T., S. 2019. The Science behind Chocolate Cravings. Research Matters. Available from https://researchmatters.in/sciqs/science-behind-chocolate-cravings [Accessed on 30 April 2020].
- Corinne, O., O. 2018. Does My Chocolate Craving Mean Anything? Healthline. Available from https://www.healthline.com/health/craving-chocolate#hunger [Accessed on 30 April 2020].
- Emily, W. 2019. Constantly craving chocolate? Magnesium deficiency could be the reason. BetterYou. Available from https://betteryou.com/health-hub/constantly-craving-chocolate-magnesium-deficiency-could-be-the-reason/ [Accessed on 30 April 2020].
- Johnson, J. 2017. What causes food cravings? Medical News Today. Available from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318441#causes [Accessed on 30 April 2020].
- Madi, J. 2017. There’s a psychological reason why you crave chocolate all the time. BUSINESS INSIDER. Available from https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-the-reason-why-you-crave-chocolate-2017-7?IR=T [Accessed on 30 April 2020].
- Paul, R., Elenor, L. and Carn, S. 1991. Chocolate Craving and Liking. Appetite 17: 199-212.
- Sara, T. 2019. Ack! I need chocolate! The science of PMS food cravings. The Conversation. Available from https://theconversation.com/ack-i-need-chocolate-the-science-of-pms-food-cravings-116341 [Accessed on 30 April 2020].
- Stephen, J., C., Amy, G., P., Jeffrey, W., H., Mark, K., P., Julie, M., Larry, H., Debra, L., M. 2011. Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit””: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products. Chemistry Central Journal 5(5): 1-6.
- Susan, Y. 2003. Sugar and Fat: Craving and Aversions. The Journal of Nutrition 133 (3): 835-837.