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Why Do I Crave Chocolate?

We’ve all been there. We suddenly get a craving for a food that “isn’t good for us”. It could be chocolate. It could be a piece of bread. It could be something creamy and full of fat.

From a scientific perspective, why does this happen? And what can we do to control it?

But first, emotions

There are two main reasons why we crave things from a scientific perspective, and we’ll jump into those shortly. But another reason we crave things is emotion.

Maybe we want to eat chocolate when we’re lonely because we remember our friends or family being all together and baking brownies together. Or maybe we want to eat ice cream when we are dealing with strong emotions and want to distract ourselves with something that tastes heavenly.

Emotional eating is real, and it goes beyond scientific reasons why we might crave something. It’s also hard to control, but possible. Certain things like joining a healthy eating community or keeping track of what you eat with a friend or spouse can be effective ways to limit emotional eating.

Nutrient deficiency

The first non-emotional reason why our bodies crave things like chocolate is because of a nutrient deficiency. We simply need more of a nutrient, and our body speaks to our brain to create a craving.

For example, chocolate contains more magnesium than almost any other food. 64mg in just a single square of dark chocolate. Magnesium is a critical mineral in our diet, as it is an essential factor in over 300 enzyme reactions.

On a cellular level, magnesium helps with the replication of DNA and RNA, and it is a crucial mineral for healthy red blood cells. This is partly why many women who are menstruating feel sudden cravings for chocolate. The body needs magnesium and is creating the craving for chocolate so we get more of that needed magnesium.

We’d all like to be the people that are so very in touch with our body’s nutritional needs that we always eat exactly the nutrients it requires (and nothing more). And maybe there’s some wonderful health guru or mountaintop hermit who does just that, but the rest of us are human :). We lead busy lives. One easy way to reduce cravings for minerals like magnesium is to simply add a multivitamin into our daily routine. Especially one that has been tailored to our gender and our specific micronutrient needs.

Gut Health

We’re not the only things alive in our body. There are billions of micro-organisms living inside of each one of us, especially in our gut.

New research is showing that many of these organisms can actually create cravings for their favorite foods. They do so by releasing hormones, by spiking production of serotonin & dopamine, and even by mimicking our body’s own natural hunger hormones.

Some organisms crave yeast, leading to carb cravings, while others crave simple sugars or fats. Your particular favorite craving might just be the favorite food of your dominant strain of gut microbe.

That’s a scary thought on one hand, because it means we may not be in control as we thought we were of our cravings. But on the other hand it’s a great thought: If we control our gut microbiome, we can control our cravings.

In fact, researchers at Cambridge University that studied gastric bypass patients concluded that a large part of their subsequent weight loss was likely due to changes in food preferences created by a change in gut microbes, and not necessarily to the physical changes from the surgery.

Because our gut microbes don’t live very long, we have a lot of control over which ones thrive. Even a few days of a high fiber diet can help us have healthier cravings, as we’re giving those fiber-loving microbes a chance to reproduce and be more dominant than other types.

And have you ever eaten really well for weeks and then messed up ONE TIME with a craving like dulce de leche? And then suddenly had constant and unstoppable cravings for dulce de leche? That could possibly be the result of a sudden increase in the type of microbes that feed on dulce de leche. You gave them a chance to thrive, and now they want more.

Science is still very young when it comes to the effect of gut biome on cravings, but it’s very promising. Sticking to a diet in high fiber foods, trying to go on streaks of good eating days to give more beneficial microbes a chance to thrive, and taking a good probiotic supplement are all ways to help have a healthier gut biome and possibly reduce cravings.

Now, the next time you are craving that chocolate bar you might be able to understand why. And knowing why is a large part of being able to make a good decision for your health.

Let’s get healthier together,

Your friends at Santo Remedio

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