It’s a question some women ask themselves every month. Some grocery stores have even caught on, placing large displays of chocolate bars near the shelves of Tampax and Kotex. This isn’t just a stereotype: It turns out, there is actually something scientific going on at that time of the month.
Women the world over are all too familiar with the mild to severe cramping during menstruation, as their uterine wall contracts, shedding the lining that would have helped support a pregnancy The uterus activates its muscular wall, in a downward motion, sending the no-longer-needed tissue south.
Many women crave chocolate during this time, but most have no idea why. They do know they feel a whole lot better after eating it. The answer lies in the powerful effects of magnesium and flavanols.
Dark Chocolate’s Secret Powerhouse Ingredient
Magnesium is essential for our bodies to function properly; it helps boost our immune system, protects our eyes, keeps our bones strong, our heart beating rhythmically, and our blood sugar levels steady. Magnesium also helps to relax our muscles—not only the muscles in our arms, legs, and in the inner lining of our blood vessel walls, but also the muscles inside the uterus. A serving of the SuperFood dark chocolate (70% or higher) can provide about 15% of the daily recommended intake of magnesium; this percentage goes up with darker chocolate, but drops to only 8% with milk chocolate.
Chocolate is also one of the world’s richest sources of flavanols; these dietary components are potent anti-inflammatory agents. Flavanols help to decrease pain by blocking the release of pain-causing prostaglandins. As with magnesium, the amount of flavanols increases as the chocolate gets darker.
So the next time it’s that “time of the month” and you find yourself reaching for chocolate, make it dark, eat it in moderation, and consider it a natural medicine.
Sources: USDA – Integrative medicine—Rakel, third edition & National Institutes of Health