Pregnancy is a roller coaster ride for all women. On the one hand, you are all aglow with the joys of new motherhood; on the other, your life seems to have been boiled down to a series of dos and don’ts. Your workout routine has seen a sea change, your sleep pattern is distinctly different, and, worst of all, food comes with so many new rules! It doesn’t help that cravings are more prominent than ever, and because every pregnancy is unique, random rules don’t really apply. Even chocolate, the ultimate comfort food, comes with baggage. There is a lot of information about this heavenly dessert available everywhere, and it is difficult to filter out the myths and get the solid facts.
Here, let us try to separate the truth from the trash and see how much of chocolate you can actually eat, if any, during those nine months.
It’s a stress buster: Chocolate actually has quite a lot of good things going on for itself. It helps in relieving stress and is a natural mood lifter, thanks to its ability to release the happy hormones. It is common knowledge that stress during pregnancy should be avoided at all times since it is harmful for both the mother and the baby. And anxiety during pregnancy is a very common occurrence, what with all the hormonal changes and thoughts about the vastly different life to come. Moreover, life today is very hectic, and most women balance pregnancy with a full time job. Keeping a few blocks of chocolate handy will help in reducing stress during moment of pressure and panic attacks.
It might prevent pre-eclampsia: Cocoa contains theobromine, which is helpful in reducing blood pressure. The stressful life of the modern woman often leads t high blood pressure in women, which is even commoner during pregnancy, thanks to all the extra stress. This is extremely harmful f for the baby, because studies have linked high blood pressure to pre-eclampsia, a condition which leads to premature births and even infant fatalities. According to a Yale University research, women who consumer moderate amounts of chocolate during pregnancy suffer 50% less chance of pre-eclampsia.
Happy mom, happy baby: As mentioned before, chocolate acts as a great stress buster. It aids in the release of the happy hormones, which are responsible for lifting our mood and keeping us happy. And according to a Finnish study, the perky benefits of chocolate extend to the baby growing in the womb as well. 300 women were asked, after giving birth, whether they ate chocolates during pregnancy. It was concluded from the study that women who ate chocolates during pregnancy gave birth to livelier babies that smiled more and were more active by 6 months of age, than those whose mothers did not eat chocolate while expecting.
Nutritional elements: Chocolate contains flavonoids, which contains antioxidants. Antioxidants purify the blood and regulate the circulation in the body, which helps in maintaining cardiovascular health and improving immunity, both of which positively affect the growing baby. Besides, the iron and magnesium in chocolate helps in regulating metabolism, which aids in maintaining the right kind of weight during pregnancy. Needless to say, being overweight or underweight in pregnancy can both cause serious physical damage to both the baby and the mother.
What type of chocolate should you eat?
Usually, dark chocolate is preferred over the sweetened and milky versions. However, that is not the case during pregnancy. Milk chocolates are preferred over dark chocolate if you are pregnant. Chocolate contains caffeine, which can be harmful for the mother and the baby, and dark chocolate contains a lot of the same. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, contains lower caffeine, but there is a higher amount of sugar.
How do you choose? As a general rule, dark chocolates are much healthier, pregnant or not, but especially when you are pregnant. But even then, not all dark chocolates are good, and the packaging will be filled with a lot of nutritional buzzwords that is really a whole lot of fluff. To be safe, this is what you should look for:
70% or more: The chocolate bar must contain 70% or more cocoa. It is the cocoa butter that has all the health benefits associated with chocolate, so the higher the cocoa content, the better it is. The rest of the bar is mostly sugar.
It’s bad if it’s chocolaty: If the package comes with the words ‘chocolate-coated’, ‘made with chocolate’, or ‘chocolate-flavored’, steer clear. They contain miniscule amounts of cocoa butter in them, and are most likely all sugar.
Sugar-free is a trap: Sugar-free items would probably be terrible tasting if they had no sweetness to them. Sugar-free chocolates, therefore, eliminate the sugar, but use sugar alcohol, which may cause serious health issues, and contain none of the healthy nutritional elements of cocoa butter.
Cadmium and lead: You will probably not find them in the ingredients list of any chocolate, but look around a bit, and you will come across studies that prove certain chocolates to contain dangerous traces of these two elements. Lead and cadmium are especially dangerous for pregnant women since they cause neurological disorders in brains that have not been fully formed yet, and can transfer from the mother to the child.
Like everything else, it is best to eat chocolate in moderation. While that is true at any point during your life, it is especially true when you are pregnant. Keep a few blocks of chocolate with you every day, and just make sure that you are not overdoing the limit. Chocolate contains a fair amount of caffeine, which can be harmful for the baby, so make sure you balance its intake with your daily coffee or tea consumption. There is no exact amount that is safe for all women, so consult the gynecologist before you eat any chocolate.
When to stop
Chocolate has many benefits for the pregnant woman, but you should lay off them if you are facing any of the following problems:
Excessive weight gain: All kinds of chocolate contain a certain amount of sugar, and a lot of fat and calories, which can be quite harmful for the mother and the baby. Sugar intake is one of the principal causes of weight gain since it hampers metabolism, so make sure you stop eating chocolate as soon as you start seeing abnormal weight gain.
High blood sugar: As mentioned before, all kinds of chocolate contain some amount of sugar. So, if you start to face problems with controlling your blood sugar, which keeps going high lay off the chocolate altogether, along with other sweets. Consult your doctor before you can start on the chocolates again.
Gestational diabetes: This is a highly dangerous condition for both the mother and the baby. If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, stop eating chocolates immediately. Your blood sugar will return to normal after you deliver the baby, but it is linked to high infant mortality and miscarriages.
In conclusion, yes, you can certainly eat chocolate while you are expecting. But make sure you are not satisfying every hunger pang with a slab of the heavenly dessert. Instead, limit consumption to one or two blocks of chocolate on a daily basis, lower if you can only eat dark chocolate. Most importantly, consult your doctor to see whether the cocoa and the caffeine will have any adverse effects.