Why, Why, WHY Do We Crave Chocolate?

Have you ever wondered why you crave chocolate? There's more than willpower at stake!

Let's face it: chocolate lovers crave chocolate. That's why we call ourselves chocolate lovers! But no matter how much we talk about chocolate's health benefits, we all know the truth: chocolate is okay. All that fat and sugar? Not so much.

We tend to think of cravings as willpower deficiencies, but is that really the case? What exactly makes us crave chocolate, and how can we get it under control?

Reasons we Crave Chocolate

1. Cultural Habits

Most of the people who report chocolate cravings are women (sorry guys, but it's true). Some experts suggest that might be due to the psychological link between chocolate, luxury, and love. We talk about chocolate "melting in your mouth," and we've all heard of the "perfect gift:" flowers and chocolate.

So why don't men crave chocolate? Well, how often do you give a man a box of chocolates as a gift? The two most common reasons people give chocolates as gifts are:

1. To show love (usually a man to a woman)
2. To show appreciation (usually to teachers -- many of whom are women)

Men tend to get alcoholic beverages or gift certificates. Women have far more reason to associate chocolate with relaxation, luxury, and love. And people wonder that we crave chocolate??

2. Chemical Reactions

It's a proven fact: chocolate makes you feel good. Something about the combination of cocoa, fat, and sugar is exactly the right balance to trigger every feel-good chemical in your brain! Chocolate simultaneously releases endorphins and serotonin (your brain's feel-good neurotransmitter) and curbs your craving for fat.

But wait, there's more reason to crave chocolate! Chocolate also:

-theobromine and caffeine, providing a mental boost
-phenylethylamine, which increases your nervous system and can provide reactions similar to -- seriously -- standing next to your latest crush
-anandamide, a built-in flavor enhancer that some liken to actual drugs

Of course, we crave chocolate and not, say, salami, which also contains phenylethylamine. It seems to be that unique combination chocolate hits dead-on that sends our brains into a tizzy.

Controlling the Urge!

There's good news and bad news. Craving chocolate isn't necessarily due to a lack of willpower -- it could be your brain manufacturing chemicals (a chemical dependency on chocolate -- yikes!).

On the other hand, large amounts of chocolate aren't really good for you. The best bet? Limit yourself to small amounts -- individually wrapped pieces, for example. That way, you can satisfy yourself when you crave chocolate without munching on 500 calories at a pop!