Is it safe to eat chocolate while I’m pregnant? It’s a popular question women ask their obstetrician or midwife. No wonder, nine months is a long time to go without your favourite sweet treat.
The Good News
Consuming a moderate amount of chocolate is perfectly safe for the majority of pregnant women.
Dark chocolate with 70% cocoa contains minerals such as potassium, zinc, selenium and iron. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine (PEA) which is the same chemical your brain creates when you are falling in love. Your brain releases feel-good endorphins which help you cope with stress.
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids that are part of a group of antioxidants that are known as polyphenols which are also found in tea, red wine, fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
Eating chocolate in late pregnancy has also been linked to a reduced chance of developing preeclampsia.
The Not So Good News
There are a few ingredients in chocolate that make it food that should be consumed in moderation by everyone but especially pregnant women.
When you are eating chocolate, you are consuming empty calories. Filling up on food that has little or no nutritional value isn't a good idea when your body most needs nutritious foods. Make sure you only eat chocolate as an after meal treat or snack, so you are still hungry at meal times. You want to be eating foods that are packed with vitamins and minerals to keep you and your growing baby fit and healthy.
Chocolate contains caffeine which crosses the placenta into the amniotic fluid and baby’s bloodstream. A baby’s body takes longer to process caffeine and a high consumption of caffeine is thought to cause low birth weight. Caffeine also takes longer to break down in the mother’s body as pregnancy progresses. By the third trimester, it takes three times as long to disappear than if she wasn’t pregnant. Caffeine also makes it harder for the body to absorb iron and many pregnant women already suffer from low iron levels.
There are varying quantities of caffeine in different types of chocolate but dark chocolate can be high. If you are drinking coffee and eating chocolate during the same day, you may go over the recommended dose of caffeine.
When to Cut Out Chocolate
For some pregnant women, their obstetrician or midwife will recommend they cut out chocolate and other foods high in sugar and fat for the remainder of their pregnancy.
Eating too many foods that are high in sugar and fat can lead to too much weight gain. Swapping junk food for better food alternatives should result in more moderate weight gain.
High blood sugar levels can develop into gestational diabetes which can cause a baby’s weight to increase too much. Gestational diabetes also puts the mother at risk of developing type two diabetes later in life. For most pregnant women, gestational diabetes can be controlled with an exercise plan and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
If you have any concerns about your diet while you are pregnant, speak to your GP, obstetrician or midwife.
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