It’s that time of the month and all you’re craving is chocolate, ice cream and chips. We’re grumpy, tired and sore, and if we want a whole tub of chocolate fudge brownie ice cream, that’s what we’re going to have.
Why is it, though, that we crave these certain foods?
Contrary to what we might believe, women crave these foods, not because our bodies ‘need’ them, but because they make us feel better.
"When you menstruate, your oestrogen and progesterone levels do go low and sometimes we can feel a bit more tired or a bit stressed," Simone Austin, accredited practising dietitian and spokeswoman for the Dietitians Association of Australia, told The Huffington Post Australia.
"It’s probably more environmental or social programming that, when we feel stressed or tired, we tend to want to have comfort foods. This is often foods like chocolate and other sweets, as we associate those with a pick-me-up."
Chocolate, ice cream and cakes make us feel better as they contain sugar, which -- as we all know -- has an addictive quality. That is, it's difficult to stop at one square of chocolate and easy to inhale a whole block.
"We do get that feedback from having sweets, that opioid, happy hormone reaction, and it makes us fees good. So, if you’re tired, grumpy or stressed when your period comes, that reaction feeds you and that’s when you want more," Austin said.
However, period cravings don't always have to be sweet. Some women crave salty or fatty foods like chips, pizza and burgers.
"It’s usually sweets that women tend to crave more," Austin said. "However, if you’re a person who goes for those salty, fatty foods as your treats then those would be the comfort foods you will want when you have your period."
While eating a block of chocolate can help women to feel better before or during their period, there are ways to enjoy your favourite comfort food while at the same time ensuring you don't overeat.
"When we are menstruating we need to recognise that these cravings might happen, so don’t buy blocks of chocolate that you can work your way through. Buy small Freddo Frog-size amounts," Austin told HuffPost Australia.
"It doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself, but maybe try to look at portion sizes and eat it mindfully. Slowly enjoy it and don't have the guilt associated with it."
If milk chocolate is your vice, Austin also suggests trying a darker variety.
"Chocolate can certainly make you feel better. Dark chocolate is less sweet so it doesn’t give you that same feeling of needing to eat the whole block," Austin said.
To make sure you're getting important nutrients during menstruation, mix it it up with some fresh, whole foods to have alongside your sweet treat.
"Have available some other healthy foods like nuts or your favourite fruit (a mango or a punnet of raspberries might be sweet enough), and have a few chocolate squares to go with them," Austin said.
"Try to have plenty of these healthy foods already prepared so they’re easy choices, but don’t feel guilty about having small amounts of these treat foods.
"Try to remove the guilt from it but don’t buy the big packets that are going to make life hard for you."