Have you ever wondered why you crave sweet foods before starting your period? This is likely due to hormonal changes in the body that occur about 7-10 days before Flo makes her visit. Here’s what happens. During the luteal phase (essentially, the two weeks leading up to your period), estrogen and progesterone levels rise and then rapidly decline. These hormonal changes can cause blood sugar levels to drop. When blood sugar levels drop, we typically crave sweet foods. This may be the body’s attempt to maintain homeostasis. If we consume fast-acting energy, we can “rebound” our blood sugar levels.
In addition, serotonin (a neurotransmitter with the ability to positively impact our mood) and magnesium levels tend to be lowest during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, and this is accompanied by an increase in cortisol levels. When we eat starchy and sweet foods, our body releases serotonin. It makes sense, then, why we’d be craving more starchy and sweet foods while our serotonin levels are low. Craving chocolate, in particular? It may be because magnesium levels have taken a dip, and chocolate is a good source of magnesium. An increase in cortisol levels can also increase appetite and cravings. To recap, around this time of the month, we are likely craving starchy and sweet foods…and more of them, too!
SO, WHAT DO WE DO?
First, let’s take a moment to recognize that period cravings are legit. It’s science! You aren’t crazy, you don’t lack willpower, and you are definitely not alone.
Consider the following strategies that may help you to feel more balanced and less “out of control” around food during this time of the month:
1. Better to honor the craving and move on rather than deprive yourself of a particular food, only to binge on it later (a natural reaction to deprivation, by the way).
2. Consider consuming sweet foods that won’t result in a blood sugar “crash” like berries, apple slices, peanut butter, or Greek yogurt with granola and hemp seeds.
3. Ensure you are regularly eating throughout the day. Waiting too long to eat can intensify cravings.
4. Pairing sweet foods with fiber-containing foods or protein can help to keep blood sugar levels more stable, preventing a blood sugar “crash” later.
5. Engage in an activity that gets your heart rate up. This will raise serotonin levels! Sunlight also helps us produce more serotonin.
6. Some additional foods high in magnesium you may consider adding to food intake during this time of the month include: pumpkin seeds, spinach, chia seeds, almonds, and cashews.
Curious to learn more? Reach out to the dietitians at 901 Nutrition, LLC. Email email@example.com or call 901.800.9526.
Kristi Edwards, co-founder and owner of 901 Nutrition LLC, is a licensed and registered dietitian in Memphis. She has several years of experience in both acute care and outpatient settings, and she is passionate about helping clients ditch dieting for good, through intuitive eating and the enjoyment of food. You can reach Kristi at 901.800.9526 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about 901 Nutrition or to subscribe to their free newsletter for monthly recipe books, visit 901nutrition.com. You can also follow 901 Nutrition on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.