Chocolate During Pregnancy – Scientific Proof Why It’s Important To Eat

Who doesn’t love chocolate? And when you’re pregnant, well, it’s a must.

Smooth, creamy, slightly bitter, perfectly sweet… and super beneficial to baby?!?

Yes. Read on, mama. 🙂

Chocolate during pregnancy has health benefits

It’s true. Chocolate contains important nutrients that may make chocolate an important part of a healthy diet! Chocolate contains:

Antioxidants– They help eliminate free radicals in your body. If this review is correct, and preeclampsia is partly due to oxidative stress, then getting enough antioxidants may be an important part of prenatal care.

Magnesium– Many people are deficient in magnesium and often a chocolate craving is a sign that you’re dealing with magnesium deficiency. Eating chocolate can help replenish magnesium as can leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and a good supplement may be necessary. Magnesium is especially important in pregnancy because magnesium deficiency has been connected to preeclampsia. Some moms also find boosting their magnesium stores before pregnancy (or during) may be a good morning sickness remedy.

Resveratrol– May protect brain and nervous systems and prolong life.

Chocolate also has anti-inflammatory properties which can reduce the risk of stroke!

Endorphins- Anyone can attest to the way chocolate makes us feel. It contains phenethylamine, which triggers the release of endorphins, mimicking the way we feel when we’re in love, so it makes sense that many pregnant mamas reach for chocolate at the end of a long day.

But did you know eating chocolate during pregnancy could benefit baby too?

In a Swedish study, researchers asked moms how frequently they ate chocolate during pregnancy, and, when their babies were 6 months old, asked them to rate their babies’ happiness. The results showed a significant difference between the scores that mom’s gave of their children. Mom’s who regularly ate chocolate during pregnancy gave higher happiness scores to their 6 months old than mamas who didn’t eat chocolate regularly.

Of course we don’t know why exactly the chocolate babies appeared to be happier than the non-chocolate babies. It could be that  the chocolate itself is making the babies happier by crossing the placenta or into the breast milk. It could be that mom’s increased happiness, from the chocolate, makes baby happier. Or maybe women who eat chocolate every day are simply more happy themselves and thus see the baby as happier.

What’s really interesting about this study is that chocolate during pregnancy seemed to protect baby from maternal prenatal stress.

The study also took into account the moms stress levels during pregnancy and their babies’ fearfulness. Moms who never or seldom ate chocolate during pregnancy and had high levels of stress during pregnancy reported having babies who were more fearful. Likewise moms who seldom or never ate chocolate during pregnancy who had lower levels of stress reported babies who were less fearful.

However, babies of moms who ate chocolate daily had no significant increase in fearfulness regardless of maternal prenatal stress.

So, in other words, EAT ALL THE CHOCOLATE, well, at least the kind made with real ingredients, because it may just help protect baby from the affects of stress in utero and may even make her happier overall!

What if I have gestational diabetes?

Pure chocolate is actually very low in carbohydrates and mostly fat but also very bitter. We sweetened it to make it taste good! But, did you know they now make low-carb chocolate for those who are watching their blood sugar levels? I like this brand as they have TONS of different flavors and all are sweetened with very low-carb options. You can still enjoy the benefits of chocolate, including awesome antioxidants and endorphins, without spiking your blood sugar. Of course, check with your healthcare provider if this chocolate works within your gestational diabetes plan.

Healthy and ethical chocolate

There has been some concern lately about lead and cadmium levels in some brands of chocolate. A consumer advocacy group As You Sow did independent testing on a number of popular brands and found levels to be higher than the safe threshold set by California (though the levels were still within the FDA’s limits). Since we know that there is no safe level of lead for children, it makes sense to stay away from heavy metals as much as possible while pregnant.

On the other hand, many of the brands that tested ok for lead and cadmium were milk chocolate which has less cocoa in it. That means that simply eating less dark chocolate would have the same effect. Almost all of the brands that tested ok for lead and cadmium were conventional chocolate which we wouldn’t recommend eating either. So what’s a mama to do? As with all dietary choices, be selective and keep it within moderation.

Green and Black’s Organic Chocolate

Dagoba Chocolate Drops

Equal Exchange Chocolate Dark Chocolate

Organic Dark Chocolate Almonds

Equal Exchange Chocolates Hot Cocoa

Recipes for getting your daily chocolate fix

Try one of these delicious and healthy chocolate recipes!

Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Chocolate Chia Pudding

How about you?

Did you eat chocolate during pregnancy? Do you think it made your baby happier?

References

  • http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/10/14/chocolate-benefits.aspx

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 75,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth book

Introducing the world’s first
week-by-week pregnancy guide
from a natural perspective!

30 Comments

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  1. I have been eating raw cacao nibs every morning in my porridge for the iron content. Do you know if cacao nibs also contain cadmium and lead? Should I stop?

  2. When I was pregnant with twins I had the strongest cravings and could not find anything that would satisfy me and nourish my two babies inside. I refuse to inject any processed junk (no emulsifier, GMO, refined rancid vegetable oil and sugar) so I started to make my own truffles combining very dark chocolate (I was making a 95% raw cacao truffles now we are up to 88%!) and sprouted nuts or seeds. I made it to 37 weeks and a half no complications or gestational diabetes. It fed three people in one…

  3. Chocolate is my all-time favorite snack. I don’t really consider it a treat because I only eat SUPER dark (like 72%+) chocolate with very little sugar in it. One of my favorite brands, which I DO consider a treat simply because it’s so dang expensive, is Primal Chocolate. It’s made with coconut sugar, which has a much lower glycemic impact than regular sugar, and only has three ingredients! The best value in super dark chocolate is definitely Trader Joe’s 85% Dark Chocolate Lover’s chocolate. It’s $1.69 and you get two bars in a pack.

    The weird thing is that I’ve had almost ZERO dsire for chocolate since I got pregnant. I’m hoping that it’s just a first trimester thing (I’m 10 weeks), but in the meantime I’m adding cocoa powder to my smoothies. 🙂

    Thanks for everything you do, Genevieve! Your blog has made a huge difference in my pregnancy so far!

  4. Hi Wellness Mama,
    Great article! I’ve also read your article on ultrasounds/dopplers. What’s your take on ultrasounds at week 12? Midwife is suspecting twins, and I’m wondering if it’s safe to get one. Also, how often should I get ultrasounds if it’s twins as I know it’ll be high risk?
    Thanks!!

    • Zana, first of all, congrats on your pregnancy! Second, I would be careful with ultrasounds. There should always be a purpose to them if they’re used at all. What exactly are they looking for with the ultrasound, and what are the potential consequences? It can be difficult and unreliable to diagnose anything during pregnancy. You could get false positives and lots of anxiety for no reason. And most diseases can’t be treated until the baby is born anyway. To assess growth and positioning, midwives use their hands and a tape measure. You can even measure fundal height yourself to make sure your baby is growing well. It would be good to know if you had twins, but you could probably find that out later, too, by locating the heartbeat. 🙂 It’s totally up to you.

  5. Can i take chocolate if i have excessve heartburn and hyperacidity. i heard chocolate caused heartburn. Im 7 months

  6. I have a drink of raw cacao everyday during my pregnancy. I take it like coffee, a teaspoon of cacaopowder with hot water, a teaspoon of honey and a bit of milk. It is very tasty and gives me energy in the morning when I feel tired. I am 40, pregnant with my seventh baby and feeling great!

  7. Dark chocolate has caffeine in it. Caffeine is bad for baby, right? White chocolate is nothing but butter and sugar, right? That can’t be good, right?

    • I think a little caffeine is ok for some pregnant women. For me with my first child, he had an irregular heartbeat in the womb. It’s not too uncommon but very scary to hear. I had to cut out every bit of caffeine, including chocolate. I also upped my magnesium. It came back even if I cheated a little. I’m eating chocolate this go around, just not tea or coffee.

  8. Is it safe to eat raw cacao during pregnancy? I have read some studies with conflicting info.

  9. I have been living cacao this whole pregnancy and also my enjoy life chocolate chips 🙂

  10. I’m a labor doula and I encourage my clients to take dark chocolate with them to hospital or birth center for a little power boost. ?

  11. I don’t know if it made my baby happier (she was a very happy baby and is now a happy toddler), but my little-square-of-dark-chocolate-a-day habit certainly made me happier. ?

  12. What about the caffeine in chocolate. You didnt mention anything about that.

    • You can eat 3-4 oz of dark chocolate a day and still be within the 1 cup of coffee caffeine limit. Of course, that assumes that you aren’t also drinking coffee.

  13. What about high levels of cadmium and lead recently reported in many organic and fair trade brands of chocolate? Also, cacao is high in phytic acid, is it not?

    • Phytic acid is a non-issue. Phytic Acid is a compound made up of Inositol (sometimes referred to as Vitamin B8), and Phosphorus. Both
      are elements that are essential for proper bodily functions, and affect liver function and other major organs. Your body simply breaks down phytic acid into those compounds during digestion. Not harmful.

  14. Suggestions on chocolate without added sugar? I keep looking for one made with honey or stevia but no success. What about maltitol as a substitute?

    • You can make it yourself… Cocoa, coconut oil, vanilla, and honey or stevia. I stick it in the freezer on a small cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and break off a piece when I feel the urge. Google it to find the proportions 🙂

    • There is a chocolate brand sweetened only with stevia. It’s much more expensive than making your own, but it’s really yummy. I first found it at Whole Foods: http://lilyssweets.com/.

  15. Would raw cacao have the same benefit?

    • I put raw cocoa powder into my morning coffee and it’s what I use to make hot chocolate. It is considered a super food and is from where the benefits of chocolate come. Cocoa is used to make all chocolates. When it’s raw it retains much more of its amazing nutrients than when it’s cooked and processed into chocolate. I buy Viva Naturals organic raw cocoa powder from Amazon. It’s a great price and the best tasting brand that I’ve found. I’ve even made my own chocolate with it.

  16. Do you eat chocolate since it has added sugar? New Years resolution is to avoid refined sugar and I’m at the end of my pregnancy…

  17. I am going to get some “good” chocolate! I have been wanting some, and my husband will tell me to get some when we are at the store. I will say no it is so full of refined sugars, chemicals, gmos, fake ingredients, and dyes I don’t want to eat that junk. He says I take all the fun out of stuff for him now because I quit eating junk, and now he can’t even surprise me with a candy bar. Poor guy! (But it is funny too!)

    • Lol wow sounds like my husband! He repeatedly asks me why I don’t try foods and snacks that he eats….I try my best not to hurt his feeling….I want to tell him so bad he is consuming so many chemicals it should be illegal.

  18. I totally agree. I ate a chocolate everyday of my pregnancy with my 1st son . 15 yrs later he is the live wire in our home. He was the happiest baby smiled all the time. His fotos are all proof of it. Ppl still call him their smiley baby. Keep eating them chocolates! !

    • thank you ..
      i have only 6 weeks.and i prefer to take my morning coffe by putting cacoa in the milk but i thought may be is not good

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