Chocolate cravings linked to depression
16 Nov 2007
Are you a PMS chocoholic? If so read on, because we’ve come across an interesting study that links depression with cravings for chocolate.Published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists last month, the study, conducted in Australia, showed that people who crave chocolate when they are depressed are less likely to have an introverted type of personality. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the study also found that more women than men craved chocolate when feeling down.
The study looked at the self-reported benefits of chocolate during a depressive period. Nearly 3,000 people reporting clinical depression i.e., experiencing depressive symptoms for more than two weeks and needing treatment for it completed a web-based questionnaire. The average age was 40 and over 70% were female. Over 73% had previously been on antidepressants and over 78% had received counselling or psychotherapy for depressive episodes.
The study found that when depressed, over 54% of the respondents reported food cravings, with nearly 45% specifically craving chocolate – almost half of the women who took part in the questionnaire. The suggestion was that it made them feel less anxious and irritable.
The chocolate craving group also experienced greater irritability, rejection sensitivity, anxious worrying, and self-criticism. They also had higher scores for appetite increase, weight gain, oversleeping and limbs feeling ‘heavy like lead’.
Some women with PMS are quite often prone to sweet or chocolate cravings in the lead up to their menses. Sugary foods give a rapid release of glucose, which doesn’t last very long in the blood because insulin is made to prevent the level rising too high. The result, according to NAPS Dietary Guidelines is a sharp increase of short duration, followed by a crash. Avoiding sugary foods prevents the rapid rise and fall.
Eating a low GL diet can help with these cravings at these times. Devised by NAPS Trustee, dietician Nigel Denby, author of the GL series of cook books, eating low GL foods means that that the glucose is absorbed more slowly, helping to keep blood glucose levels more stable. “If we eat low-GL foods, we store less excess energy and blood glucose levels are kept stable, giving a slow-release, prolonged energy supply. This enables us to go about our activities with fewer cravings, feeling more balanced and of course ultimately, storing less fat,” he explains.
There is hope for chocolate lovers however, because Nigel has included some delicious recipes for those occasions when we just have to have our chocolate fix. The following recipes are taken from Nigel’s The GL-Diet cookbook.
Cheeky Chocolate Smoothie
Preparation 7 minutes, serves 1
Your choice of milk
1 heaped tsp cocoa (unsweetened)
1 medium firm banana, cut into chunks
1 tsp fresh grated ginger (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
1tsp linseeds or flax seeds
1 tsp agave syrup (optional)
Using the glass you’ll drink your smoothie from, measure the water and milk out, adding half and half so the glass is 3/4 full, and add to the blender. Add all other ingredients, blend until smooth and serve.
Melting Chocolate Pud
Preparation 20 minutes, serves 4
100g/6tbsp olive oil-based spread
100g/approx 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate (70% cocoa plus) broken into pieces
2 free-range eggs
2 free-range egg yolks
60g/ 2/3 cup ground almonds
Preheat oven to 170C/325 F Gas mark 3. Grease 4 ramekins or individual pudding moulds. Place the olive oil spread and the chocolate pieces into a heat-proof bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and allow chocolate to melt slowly (or carefully melt it for about 1 minute in a microwaveable bowl in the microwave, but take care it does not burn). Stir and leave to cool. Add eggs and egg yolks to a bowl. Add fructose and whisk until pale and thick and mixture leaves a trail on top. Fold in the chocolate mix and gradually fold in the ground almonds. Divide into the 4 ramekins and bake for 12 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and either serve in the ramekins or run a knife around the edge of the ramekin and turn out to serve.
Top with sugar-free squirty cream or, for a special treat, a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
References: Parker G and Crawford J (2007) Chocolate craving when depressed: a personality marker. British Journal of Psychiatry, 191, 351-352.