This Is Why You Crave Sugary, Fatty Foods Before Your Period

If sweets and fatty foods are calling your name around that time of the month, you're not alone. Doctors explain the reason behind your cravings.

donutViChizh/shutterstockIf you develop a hankering for French fries and chocolate during that time of month, you’re not alone. A change in dietary desires in the days leading up to menstruation is normal, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. Ignoring those cravings isn’t as easy as easing other PMS symptoms. Food cravings are common in women experiencing PMS and pregnancy because they’re hormone driven, according to Carolyn Dean, MD, women’s health expert and author of Hormone Balance: A Woman’s Guide to Restoring Health And Vitality.

PMS causes the stress hormone cortisol to soar and the feel-good hormone serotonin to dip, Dean says. “This change makes your body crave foods packed with sugar and fat,” she continues, “because they help increase levels of serotonin and fight cortisol production, making you feel better and happier.” In essence, you can attribute your increasingly voracious appetite to your hormones going haywire.

Although these cravings are tough to predict, according to the scientific experts at Clue, a female health app that works to provide resources on accurate menstrual health, tracking cravings throughout your cycle may help you identify a specific pattern of cravings. For example, when you’re in the second phase of your cycle—the luteal—you may start salivating for something especially sweet. During the premenstrual phase, you may crave starchy or calorically dense carbohydrates like bread and pizza. Your cravings may even reveal some important info about your health.

Numerous women crave chocolate both before and during their period, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Chocolate is loaded with surprising health benefits. Experts believe that perimenstrual chocolate cravings stem from the fluctuating levels of hormones like estrogen and progesterone and perimenstrual nutritional deficits, although the primary reason may be that the magnesium in chocolate may help ease painful menstruation.

Dean explains: “The mineral magnesium is an important serotonin booster. However, magnesium levels drop right before your period. Magnesium regulates cortisol, so if there is more cortisol before your period and less magnesium to regulate it, then cortisol wins out and causes more stress-related symptoms. Serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical that dips when you’re experiencing PMS, depends on magnesium for its production and function.”

Luckily, doctors and hormone specialists give their okay to indulge in moderation, rather than try to resist those cravings. “These imbalances cause the organs to send messages to the body which result in the cravings,” says chiropractor Vincent Caruso, Jr, DC, of New Jersey Total Health. “The stomach requires sweet foods to resume balance, and the liver requires fatty foods to resume balance. These messages shouldn’t be dismissed.”

If you worried about the additional calories, try cutting out processed foods, caffeine, alcohol, and refined carbohydrates in the two weeks leading up to your period. You can also up your intake of fiber and protein, which will help stabilize blood sugar and the hormone production that’s responsible for these dietary urges. Let us help you get started: Here are 30 ways to get fiber in your diet without even trying.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Reader’s Digest editors, who aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we may get a small share of revenue from our partners, such as Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We welcome your feedback. Have something you think we should know about? Email us at [email protected].

Want to stay smart and healthy?

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.