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It is normal to get cravings during the course of your pregnancy. Quite often, some of the cravings are likely to be for what is termed ‘unhealthy’ food, especially for pregnant women. Junk food, ice-cream, and chocolates often top the list of such cravings. Of these, chocolate has made the cut and is considered safe for consumption. In fact, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Universite Laval Quebec City in Canada and one at Yale University, chocolate is thought to boost foetal growth and development.
Is Eating Chocolate Safe During Pregnancy
If you have been wondering, “can I eat chocolate during pregnancy”, then you will be relieved to know that you can. But be sure to eat it in moderation. This is due to the presence of caffeine in chocolates. It is important to keep the levels of caffeine under 200 mg per day. Also, eating too much of it can result in you being less hungry for healthy foods which are essential during pregnancy.
Nutritional Value of Chocolates
Chocolates are a rich source of magnesium, flavonoids and theobromine. While magnesium regulates blood pressure and flavonoids are strong antioxidants, theobromine optimises kidney function and stimulates the blood vessels. About 45 gm of milk chocolate contains 235 calories along with 13 g of fat, while the same amount of dark chocolate has 290 calories and 19 g of fat.
Benefits of Eating Chocolate
Eating chocolate, preferably dark chocolate, in moderation, has been found to have many benefits during pregnancy. These include:
- Relief from Pre-eclampsia: In pre-eclampsia, the mother tends to have high blood pressure and increased protein levels. This can cause premature labour, convulsions, blood clotting issues, and liver damage. The theobromine present in chocolates can ease this condition and lower its risk by almost 70%. This can be especially effective in the third trimester.
- Source of Antioxidants: The flavonoids in chocolates are great antioxidants which can improve immunity levels.
- Cardiovascular Benefits: The antioxidants in chocolate are good for the heart and can also prevent heart disease later on in life.
- Stress Reliever: Dark chocolate can cause a spike in serotonin and endorphin levels in your brain. These are mood enhancers. The flavanols in chocolate also help combat fatigue and the degree of stress.
- Happier Babies: Research indicates that women who ate more dark chocolate during pregnancy went on to have happier and livelier babies. The study also indicated that chocolate safeguards babies from maternal stress.
- Balances Cholesterol Levels: The flavonoids in dark chocolate can help check escalation of cholesterol levels when pregnant. They also facilitate better flow of blood by making the blood vessels elastic.
- Nutrient Content: Chocolate contains many nutrients such as iron and magnesium which are helpful in improving haemoglobin count and encouraging the metabolism of fatty acids.
- Presence of Resveratrol: This constituent of chocolate is helpful in protecting the brain as well as the nervous systems and can be beneficial to the baby’s development.
- Anti-inflammatory: The anti-inflammatory properties of chocolate are desirable during pregnancy as they can help reduce the risk of stroke.
- Contains Monounsaturated Fats: A moderate amount of monounsaturated fats is good for pregnant women. Chocolate contains oleic acid which has almost the same amount of fats as olive oil.
How to Choose the Right Chocolate?
The darker the chocolate, the better it is. Dark chocolates contain a range of essential compounds that have numerous health benefits for pregnant women. If you can find organic chocolates which contain a minimum amount of sweeteners and refined white sugar, there’s nothing like it. Try to avoid chocolate mousse as it contains raw eggs which are not suitable for pregnant women. Chocolate milk, hot chocolate, and white chocolate are all considered safe for consumption during pregnancy. The occasional servings of chocolate cake and ice cream are also acceptable as long as you stick to your limits.
How Many Chocolates Can You Eat When Pregnant?
The number of chocolates you can eat will depend on your health before and during the pregnancy. Try and steer clear of processed chocolate and instead opt for pure chocolate.
Your doctor is the best person to consult on how much chocolate is safe for you.
Why is Too Much Chocolate Bad in Pregnancy?
There is no concrete explanation as to why women crave chocolates during pregnancy. But no matter how strong your cravings are, following are some reasons why you should not have too much of it:
- Increase in Caffeine: Chocolates contain caffeine, and too much of it during pregnancy can affect the neurotransmitters in the body. This can disrupt the normal functioning of the body by giving a false feeling of well-being. Too much caffeine has also been known to cause miscarriages besides bringing on bouts of heartburn.
- Excess Calories: Consumption of too much chocolate can result in unwanted weight gain. This is because chocolate contains a good amount of unwanted fat and calories. Being overweight can lead to complications like gestational diabetes, varicose veins, hypertension, and an increase in the odds of a C-section.
- Sugar Content: Even if you are exclusively consuming dark chocolate during pregnancy, it does contain a good amount of sugar. There is 18g sugar in a 45 gm slab of dark chocolate while its equivalent, milk chocolate, contains 23g sugar. Too much sugar can lead to excessive weight gain, dental problems, and gestational diabetes.
By making wise choices in the type of chocolates you consume and regulating the quantity, you can safely satisfy your cravings when pregnant.
Disclaimer: This information is just a guide and not a substitute for medical advice from a qualified professional.