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Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more
Got chocolate on the brain? If so, you’re not alone. But don’t blame your sweet tooth just yet! Here are the top reasons you might be feeling like a choco-holic.
There’s a chance you’re more devoted to sugar than to chocolate.
Pure chocolate comes from the cocoa bean. On its own, it’s super bitter. To get the yummy taste you know and love, cocoa powder is mixed with a hefty amount of sugar. The average chocolate bar also contains dairy and other forms of fat.
Science is a bit murky on whether it’s actually possible to be addicted to sugar. Some researchers have found no evidence of a physical addiction to sugar, while others have suggested sugar addiction is a real thing.
The one-two punch of fat and sugar makes chocolate candy particularly appealing. A sugar high might temporarily boost your mood and can also lead to an energy crash.
Limit your sugar
The American Heart Association recommends women limit their daily sugar intake to 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of sugar. For men, the recommended max is 9 teaspoons (36 grams). To put that in perspective, a Hershey’s milk chocolate bar has a whopping 24 grams of sugar. Yikes.
If you gotta have some chocolate, opt for a variety with a high cocoa content. Bars that have 70 percent cocoa or more typically have less than 10 grams of sugar. Just double-check the nutrition info on the label.
Not a fan of dark chocolate? Don’t worry. You can still live your best milk chocolate life in moderation. Start by cutting your portions. This will satisfy your craving without maxing out your sugar intake for the day. Sometimes a couple of bites is all it takes.
Skip the add-ons
Ingredients like caramel, nougat, and dried fruit can lead to a sugar bomb. Stick to a pure chocolate bar to avoid a massive sugar crash.
Your chocolate craving might not have anything to do with chocolate itself — you might just be hungry. It’s totally normal to crave fast-acting sugars when you’re feeling peckish. Simple carbs can give you a quick energy boost.
The downside is that foods with lots of refined sugar (like chocolate) rank high on the glycemic index. That means they spike your insulin levels. The sudden rush of energy will be short-lived, and then you’ll feel hungry again.
Don’t get hangry
Fill up on healthy options before heading to the candy aisle. Protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs are ideal. These foods will sustain your energy levels and can help make cravings less intense.
A lot of chocolate products contain beaucoup caffeine. In fact, a serving of chocolate can have more caffeine than a can of soda. This might be why you fantasize about Ms. Green M&M during midday energy slumps.
Some types of chocolate will give you a bigger buzz than others. Milk chocolate bars contain only 5 to 10 percent of the caffeine in a cup of coffee and white chocolate doesn’t contain any caffeine. Chocolate bars with a high cocoa percentage have more caffeine.
Opt for a healthier pick-me-up
Plain black tea can give you a jolt of energy without the fat and sugar of chocolate. It’s also a great source of antioxidants.
A lot of people crave chocolate when Aunt Flo comes to town. Some research suggests that about 50 percent of American women crave chocolate during PMS. (Keep in mind that this phenomenon might be more psychological than physical.)
Scientists haven’t found a biological link between chocolate cravings and PMS. But chocolate causes your brain to release feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine.
This means chocolate can be a quick fix for PMS symptoms like depression and anxiety — but it’s def not a long-term solution.
Chocolate is a natural source of magnesium, a micronutrient that a lot of folks (especially women) are lacking. A magnesium deficiency might play a role in chocolate cravings, but the jury is still out.
There are a lot of foods higher in magnesium that you prob don’t crave. A big bowl of Swiss chard doesn’t have the same drool 🤤 value as a chocolate chip cookie.
Keep it balanced
A balanced diet filled with magnesium-rich foods might stave off chocolate cravings. Some great options:
- whole grains
- cooked beans
- leafy greens
You can also take a magnesium supplement, but get the OK from your doctor first.
To get the biggest bang for your healthy buck, go for dark chocolate. Bars with 70 percent or more cocoa are the best choice, since they contain less sugar and dairy.
Other natural cocoa perks
- Polyphenols: These natural antioxidants can reduce your cholesterol and improve brain function. They can even reduce stress and stabilize your mood.
- Blood pressure regulation: Consuming cocoa can improve your nitric oxide levels. This can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.
- Lower diabetes risk: Cocoa flavanols can slow down carb digestion and improve insulin production. This can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Here are some tips for cutting your cravings:
- Eat a balanced diet of whole foods with lots of complex carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats.
- Stay hydrated.
- Replace refined sugars and grains with more wholesome ingredients when baking.
- Satisfy your sweet tooth with organic fruit and smoothies.
- Steer clear of nut butters with added sugar.