Why is it that when the clock strikes 3pm my body starts thinking about chocolate? And no not everyday, but on those days when it does happen, nothing can distract my mind. I want some chocolate and I want it now!
I know most of you ladies reading this right now are nodding your head – voicing out a loud, ‘yes that happens to me too!’. I have to ask: is it something so simple and scientific, such as a deficiency in a particular nutrient on that day? Or am I a chocolate addict?
Chocolate is known to release hormones such as serotonin into your body, which lifts our mood and makes us feel good. It is also associated with relaxation, and when someone is stressed, this can lead to emotional eating. Chocolate is a desired comfort food during these times and some research has stated that chocolate cravings tend to increase around that time of the month when women menstruate. This can be linked to low magnesium levels around PMS, and given that cocoa is high in magnesium and antioxidants, this could be one of many factors.
Another reason some people tend to crave chocolate – and especially in the afternoon – is because most chocolate is filled with sugar. Raw cocoa is high in magnesium and antioxidants, but it is also very bitter. Cocoa is mixed with sugar and other substances to make ‘chocolate’ as we know it today. Therefore, when you are having a chocolate craving you could be craving simply the sugar and simply for the energy boost sugar highs can provide. We have all heard that around 2pm is when our circadian rhythms slow down. Have you ever thought why you feel like a nap after lunch? Or those of you who are coffee drinkers, this is also around the time of day we may feel like another latte or in my case, a piccolo latte.
Instead of reaching for the hidden stash of chocolates in the bottom drawer of your work desk, or having that afternoon pick me up coffee, try these simple tips!
1) Fruit salad and nuts – try making a bowel of fresh cut up fruit which will give you a burst of 1) natural antioxidants and satisfy that sweet tooth. A handful of nuts will also help to stablise your blood sugar and as a bonus nuts are rich in magnesium.
2) Eat consistent balanced small meals throughout the day – this will help to keep your blood sugar levels stable and stop you from peaking and crashing.
3) Try to minimise your carbohydrates for lunch – have you ever wondered why after a big pasta meal you’re ready for a sleep? Carbohydrates release serotonin which help you sleep, rest and recover. Not the kind of mood you need to be in when you have a meeting from 2-5pm.
4) Brush your teeth – don’t knock it till you try it. This works well for some people.
5) Keep up your fluids – make sure you have had enough water throughout the day. That chocolate you are craving may just be mistaken for a big glass of chilled H20.
By Vanessa Thomson-Pride
Nutritionist and public health speaker.