I love chocolate. If I had to live on one flavour forever, I feel like I’d be perfectly content choosing chocolate.
Loving chocolate and craving chocolate are not the same creature.
For the first week of World Vegan Month, I’ve been focusing on plant protein and how to get enough. Now I’m going to take a look at how protein intake is connected two-fold with chocolate cravings.
Cravings are a function of your body’s physiological needs at the time. They can stem from needing specific nutrients the substance provides, an emotional connection to the substance craved, and/or a cyclic addiction to the substance.
Take sugar as an example. We may crave sugar because our bodies need carbohydrates to regain energy; we’re sad and eating ice cream makes us feel better for a while; we start to feel worse the longer we go without it and need to feel that sugar rush over and over again.
While chocolate often contains an excess of sugar and may constitute one manifestation of a sugar addiction, it’s suggested that craving chocolate particularly may indicate a need for magnesium, iron, or protein.
When we eat meals lacking in enough protein, e.g. a bran muffin and a black coffee for breakfast, a simple garden salad comprised solely of vegetables with balsamic for lunch, a piece of fruit as a snack… even if the choices can be considered otherwise healthy, we may find it suddenly very hard to resist tearing into myriad sweets by mid-afternoon.
Add in chronic stress and we burn through our nutritional resources a lot faster as well, further contributing to the spike-and-crash cycle!
We need macronutrient balance to maintain satiety so that we keep blood sugar more stable between meal times… so that we can avoid devouring everything in sight later.
Plant-sourced proteins, generally, are supportive of estrogen metabolism and elimination. Most – think beans, lentils, seeds, and whole grains – are high in fiber which can bind to excess estrogen and help sweep it out of the system. Even the ones controversially high in phytoestrogen come “packaged” in their whole-food form with satiating fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients that are anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, and disease-preventive.
Meanwhile, animal products – whether they’ve been treated with extra hormones or not – contain endogenous estrogen up to hundreds of times higher than other protein sources and that our bodies recognize like their own and use as such.
If you’ve been told or suspect you have estrogen dominance, PMS/PMDD, or PCOS, among other things, you might experience symptoms like irregular periods, mood swings, anxiety, anger and/or depression (especially in the 2 weeks prior to menses), heavy bleeding, and – you guessed it – intense cravings and hunger.
You may have also discovered a recommendation to reduce animal-sourced proteins and get more of your proteins from plants.
So what does this mean?
Listen to your body.
If you’re craving chocolate, go for a raw, dark, high-percentage cacao bar with less than 4g sugar per serving. You might satisfy a need for magnesium, iron, and antioxidants as well as your tastebuds, while keeping the sugar cycle in check.
Then work toward getting a better balance of plant-based protein, fat, and complex carb at your next meal. Using the meal examples from above, try:
- adding a Tbsp or two of peanut butter to that bran muffin and some yellow pea milk or soy milk to that coffee.
- throwing a 1/2 cup of cooked chickpeas and sliced almonds into the garden salad.
- adding that piece of fruit to a bowl of plant-based Greek yogourt with some hemp seeds.
Hit all the bases – chocolaty plant-powered protein goodness – with the Brownie Protein Pancakes in my free World Vegan Month 101 Recipe Bundle! [Download here until Nov 30 2019]