Why do we crave chocolate?

¡Como hacer caramelos caseros!

As we all know chocolate, especially dark chocolate with a higher concentration of cocoa solids, is beneficial to our health. Is there any connection between craving chocolate and its positive effects on our body? In this article we provide you the accurate scientific explanation of the conflictual feeling of craving.

Maybe it is disappointing to hear, but craving chocolate has nothing to do with periods when our body needs extra amounts of certain nutrients. The reason behind craving chocolate is clearly psychological. It is important to note that most of us usually do not crave healthy food but rather foods that are considered unhealthy, a huge Big Mac for instance. The explanation of this phenomenon is obviously psychological and nothing to do with the components of the craved dish.

The myth of women and chocolate

Why do we crave chocolate? Image by aleksandra85foto from Pixabay

Why do we crave chocolate? Image by aleksandra85foto from Pixabay

It is proven that chocolate is craved twice as much among women than men, especially during and before menstruation. One could argue that the reason of this phenomenon could be that women need extra iron intake during their period and chocolate is rich in iron. The truth is that there are many foods that restore iron level much faster than dark chocolate does such as red meat, green vegetables or legumes. It is the same about magnesium. Even though chocolate contains a lot of magnesium, there are other foods much higher in magnesium that people rarely crave. Another possible explanation would be that there is a connection between hormonal changes during menstruation and a biological need for chocolate. Nonetheless, scientists have found out that craving chocolate among post-menopausal women is still considerably high.

Pavlovian conditioning

We crave chocolate because this extraordinary, delicious, creamy, bittersweet food makes us happy. It is often argued that chocolate triggers the brain to release dopamine, a chemical that is responsible for good feelings. Nevertheless, there are many other foods such as dairy products that are “better” in triggering the “feel-good bottom” in our brain. The strong impression that chocolate is responsible for happiness can be explained by “conditioning response”. Conditioning response was discovered by the famous Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov. (Pavlov did experiments with dogs. Each time before he fed the dogs, he rang a bell. The dogs then learned that when the bell rang they would be fed. So they started to salivate when they heard the bell ring, even before they saw or smelled the food.) “If you always eat popcorn when you watch your favourite TV show, your cravings for popcorn will increase when you watch it.” With this everyday example John Apolzan (professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center) explained the connection between craving and conditioning response. So according to scientists, chocolate makes us happy, because we “remember” how satisfying it is. 

All in all craving is a psychological, not a biological thing. This does not mean that the positive biological effects of dark chocolate do not exist. Our healthy diet could contain dark chocolate, but we just need to understand that craving for more and more chocolate is a “trick” of our brain.