You certainly don’t have to be pregnant to crave chocolate, but it’s important to have a heightened awareness about your food and nutrition choices when you’re expecting.
Is eating chocolate during pregnancy okay, or does it make the shortlist of food you can’t have? We’ve done the research to come up with an answer so you can stay as safe as possible.
Is It Safe to Eat Chocolate During Pregnancy?
It’s safe to eat chocolate during pregnancy, in moderation. Chocolate contains antioxidants, which are good for both mother and child, and some studies suggest that eating chocolate during pregnancy can reduce preeclampsia and gestational hypertension. However, chocolate also contains caffeine and high levels of sugar, which can be harmful to the fetus in large quantities.
Is It Safe to Eat Chocolate During Pregnancy?
The effects of eating chocolate during pregnancy have been debated in the medical community for decades. But how much can you eat, how often, and what are the risks involved when you’re eating for two? That can depend on your circumstances and how much you’re planning to indulge in chocolate.
Here are some things you should know before breaking off a piece of that Kit Kat bar.
Benefits of Chocolate During Pregnancy
Chocolate during pregnancy doesn’t only taste good and satisfy cravings — it can have some real benefits as well.
Chocolate Can Reduce Stress
Some studies claim that dark chocolate reduces stress that could lead to pregnancy complications and reproductive diseases by lowering cortisol levels (1). The Society for Endocrinology has long established that a mother’s mood can affect her baby (2).
When you factor in the release of endorphins from eating chocolate, there’s no reason to deprive yourself.
There May Be Medical Benefits
Having a bit of chocolate on a regular basis might have some positive medical results. There have been suggestive studies that show a positive connection between eating dark chocolate and a smaller risk of preeclampsia and gestational hypertension, or chronic high blood pressure (3).
Chocolate Has Antioxidants
Recent research suggests that dark chocolate might help expectant mothers and fetuses because of its antioxidants.
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains flavonoids, which is a naturally occurring compound found in the polyphenol family that is rich in antioxidants. Other foods that contain flavonoids include berries, red wine, and green tea. Research suggests that flavonoids may lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other common diseases.
Flavonoids may also widen the blood vessels, called vasodilation, thus improving blood pressure. At least one study showed noshing on a little dark chocolate daily, beginning in the first trimester, increased the blood flow going to the fetus.
Dangers of Eating Too Much Chocolate During Pregnancy
Moderation is recommended when it comes to eating chocolate while you’re expecting because it can have negative consequences as well.
Chocolate Contains Caffeine
Consuming high levels of caffeine can result in low birth weight and, in the most extreme cases, caffeine can cause miscarriage (4).
Experts recommend pregnant women ingest no more than 200 milligrams a day, which can add up quickly if you also consume caffeinated beverages such as coffee or tea. It’s okay to indulge every so often, but keeping an eye on intake is recommended.
It’s High in Calories and Fat
Unfortunately, chocolate is high in sugar and calories, which in large doses can cause weight gain. According to recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services, saturated fat and added sugars should comprise no more than 10 percent of an adult’s diet (5).
Dark chocolate contains fewer calories and sugar than milk chocolate, but it also has more caffeine, which is another no-no. If you have issues controlling blood sugar levels, you’re gaining too much weight or you have gestational diabetes, you might consider drastically reducing your sugar intake.
Here are some commonly asked questions about eating chocolate while you’re expecting.
Is It Normal to Crave Chocolate During Pregnancy?
Why do pregnant women seem to crave chocolate so much? In 2014, a group of researchers hypothesized that chocolate cravings among pregnant women were linked to fluctuating hormone levels (6).
There was some evidence to suggest that chocolate cravings have to do with cultural influence.
This makes sense considering that chocolate has been reported as the most-craved food of all time in the U.S. (7).
So, craving chocolate is normal, and it’s a safe treat as long as you consume it in moderation.
Can I Drink Hot Chocolate While Pregnant?
Of course! However, there are a few things to keep in mind. Any dairy product you use with it should contain pasteurized ingredients.
If you’re making hot chocolate at home, consider using milk for extra calcium and try to use less sugar if possible. Many commercial chocolate drinks can rack up calories, so treat hot chocolate as an indulgence rather than a dietary staple.
Is Chocolate Safe to Eat in the Third Trimester?
In the first and second trimesters, occasionally eating chocolate is safe, as long as you don’t go overboard. There has been some debate about eating foods that contain polyphenols, like dark chocolate which contains a much higher level than milk chocolate, in the third trimester. One study found they can trigger a condition that is rare but serious in which too much blood circulates in the lungs and heart of the fetus (8).
Don’t worry if you’ve eaten chocolate late in pregnancy — the key is to cut down and monitor your intake. If you think you could benefit from some additional information about your diet, consult your doctor.
How Can I Stop Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy?
We would ask: why would you want to? If you’re keeping a sensible diet and monitoring how much sugar and caffeine you consume, there’s no reason to stop eating chocolate when you’re pregnant.
Just remember to practice moderation, and you can safely enjoy your favorite treat.
A Little Goes a Long Way
In small amounts, chocolate is a wonderful treat to cure those pregnancy cravings.
As long as you don’t have a pre-existing medical condition and you’re keeping an eye on your caffeine, sugar, and fat intake, there’s nothing to stop you from satisfying your sweet tooth.