Chocolate – a mysterious love affair
Why do I love chocolate so much?
Have you ever wondered whether you had a chocolate addiction? If you have, you are among about half of the population that craves it. For most people who crave chocolate, only milk or dark chocolate can satiate them. Scientists have explored many theories as to why chocolate cravings happen. None of these theories fit perfectly and none have been proven false. Perhaps the mystery of chocolate is one of the reasons we love it so much!
What is chocolate?
Chocolate originated in Mexico and was formerly reserved for special occasions for those in power. It was still considered a delicacy for nobility when it was introduced to Europeans. However, chocolate is now inexpensive and accessible to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Moreover, chocolate consumption now ranges from 5 to 12 grams per person per day world-wide.
Chocolate is made out of cacao beans. The seeds and pulp are fermented using bacteria found in the environment. This creates a fermented mush that is dried, roasted, and ground to make chocolate liquor or cocoa powder. This is mixed with sugar, milk powder, and other ingredients to produce a wide range of chocolate products.
Chocolate can be considered a “junk food” due to high amounts of cocoa butter and sugar present in it. The wonderful melt-in-your-mouth texture is provided by cocoa butter, while the sweetness is provided by sugar. Cocoa, on the other hand, provides several health advantages, including a high concentration of essential minerals. Magnesium (Mg) is one of them, and it may be one of the reasons a person craves chocolate!
Why would you crave magnesium?
Depending on the concentration of cocoa, chocolate can contain 50 to 250 mg of magnesium per 100 g of chocolate (the darker the chocolate, the higher the cocoa percentage, and higher the magnesium content). The recommended daily intake of magnesium is approximately 230 mg for women, and 400 mg for men. Therefore dark chocolate can be considered a good source of magnesium. It is possible that a magnesium deficiency in your body could cause cravings for chocolate.
Magnesium (Mg) is involved in over 400 different processes in the human body. Some processes include converting vitamin D into its active form, muscle contractions, production of energy, DNA repair and so on. We consume most of our Mg from plant-based foods and the amount of magnesium in the plant is directly proportional to the amount of Mg in the soil the plant grew in. Unfortunately, industrial agricultural practices over time have removed much of the Mg out of the ecosystem, and thus our foods are lower in Mg.
Today many people are deficient in Mg and may not realize it. Symptoms of Mg deficiency in the human bodies are generic such as loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, stress, anxiety, and depression. Eating high starch/high sugar diets, certain medications, and consuming diuretics like alcohol and coffee can all intensify Mg deficiencies.
Mg is linked to the physical and emotional stress responses in humans. Mg aids in the removal of lactate from muscles during exercise, reducing tiredness and cramping. Mg is essential for cardiovascular health. If you have low magnesium and high calcium levels, your blood vessels might constrict, your blood pressure rises, and plaque builds up, increasing your risk of heart disease. Mg shortage can also induce or worsen cramps during menstruation for women, as well as worsen premenstrual symptoms.
Mg reduces anxiety by boosting the Gaba hormone and blocking glutamate. Gaba promotes relaxation and tranquility. Glutamate is the primary excitatory neurotransmitter; inhibiting it promotes calmness. If you've had a tough day and all you want to do is bite into some delicious chocolate, you may be suffering from a magnesium deficit!
Is it true that we have chocolate cravings just because of magnesium?
This theory isn’t without flaws. There are other foods that are high in magnesium, such as nuts, seeds, and certain vegetables. If you are craving chocolate and eat some mashed potatoes, chances are high that you will still want chocolate. However, there have been studies that show magnesium supplements and high magnesium foods reduce cravings of chocolate. Perhaps next time you crave a chocolate bar, try eating a handful of almonds first! Maybe that will stem your craving.
Chocolate is high in fat and sugar, both of which are easy sources of energy for our bodies, and it also provides a pleasant sensory experience. According to researchers, a hunger for milk chocolate or dark chocolate is not satisfied by white chocolate, which provides the same sensory experience and has a high sugar and fat content. Alternative sweet foods aren't always enough to satisfy a chocolate yearning, either.
Some people find that merely inhaling specific smells is enough to start or curb a chocolate desire! A sweet food fragrance, such as vanilla has been found to boost or generate a chocolate appetite. Alternatively, a entirely different aroma, such as citrus, may be sufficient to decrease a craving.
Cocoa has also been shown to contain compounds comparable to those present in marijuana, as well as stimulants such as caffeine. This may make chocolate feel like a boost, and it can also make chocolate addictive.
Conclusion: an unsolved but delicious mystery
Scientists have yet to discover precisely why chocolate is so addictive, and it's possible that some of our fondness for chocolate may remain a mystery for the rest of our lives. What we do know is that for those who like chocolate, nothing else will suffice. Chocolate addiction might be due to a mineral deficit, certain moderately addictive substances, hormonal fluctuations, the smell, taste, and feel of eating it, or a combination of all of these! Chocolate is appreciated by people all over the world for a variety of reasons.
Now, when you have a chocolate craving, consider eating another magnesium-rich foods or taking a magnesium supplement. Or you might simply appreciate it much more while you ponder the mystery of why you are so fond of chocolate.
For more interesting articles like these, keep checking this space.
By Stacy Berry | 2-May-2022
About the author
Stacy Berry was born and raised on a farm in Alberta, Canada. She graduated in 2016 from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, major in Crop Science. Stacy has mostly worked in municipal government (vegetation management), and primary agriculture production (including horses, cows, and bees). She currently works for Nutrien Ag Services and is excited to be writing for Lab Associates! She is an animal lover who enjoys reading good books, eating good food, travelling, nature, the outdoors, and spending time with friends.
- Bruinsma, K., MS & Taren, D. L., PhD. (1999) Chocolate: food or drug? Journal of the American Dietetic Assocation. Volume 99:10, pp 1249-1256. DOI: 10.1.1.453.5039
- Cinquanta, L., Di Cesare, C., Manoni, R., Piano, A., Roberti, P & Salvatori, G. (2016) Mineral essential elements for nutrition in different chocolate products. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 67:7, 773-778, DOI: 10.1080/09637486.2016.1199664.
- Firmin, M. W., Gillette, A. L., Hobbs, T. E. & Wu, D. (2016) Effects of olfactory sense on chocolate craving. Appetite, eating and drinking. Volume 105, pp 700-704. Accessed from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666316302719 on February 10, 2022.
- Michener, W. & Rozin, P. (1994) Pharmacological versus sensory factors in the satiation of chocolate cravings. Physiology & Behaviour, Vol 56:3, pp 419-422. DOI: 0013-9384/94.
- Purohit, D. (2022, January 17) The super nutrient that most of us are missing with Drhu Purohit. Hosted by Drhu Purohit and Taylor Graff, Rupa Health, Pendulum. Episode #258 https://dhrupurohit.com/the-super-nutrient-most-of-us-are-missing-with-dhru-purohit/ Podcast.
- Weil, A. (1990) Natural health, natural medicine. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin. Book.