November 8, 2011

Eating Chocolate During Pregnancy Can Be Beneficial!

Somewhere nestled comfortably in my nausea-free second trimester I came across a couple of articles that discussed the positive effects of dark chocolate for pregnant mothers. This was a very delightful moment since I am a self proclaimed “chocoholic” and now felt rightfully justified in my wicked indulgence.

The first article talked about a study done out of Yale University that included 2,291 women pregnant with a single baby. The study sited theobromine, a chemical found in dark chocolate, as an aid to reduce the chance of developing preeclampsia by as much as 69%. Preeclampsia is a condition in which the mother has high blood pressure and protein in her urine. Theobromine is helpful for such a condition since it stimulates the heart, relaxes smooth muscles and dilates blood vessels, and has been used to treat chest pain, high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries. (1)

This particular study suggests multiple servings of dark chocolate a week. Women who ate five or more servings of chocolate each week in their third trimester of pregnancy were 40 percent less likely to develop preeclampsia than those who ate chocolate less than once a week.

PLEASE READ THIS CAREFULLY!
A serving is one small square of chocolate, NOT the whole chocolate bar! Chocolate is high in sugar which could bulk up the mother and baby and lead to other health problems, like gestational diabetes if over-consumed. So please, do not mistake what this study is suggesting.

The other article I read suggests that women who eat chocolate during pregnancy have happier, livelier babies. This study was conducted by Katri Raikkonen at the University of Helsinki in Finland with 300 pregnant participants. (While I can not claim to be part of this study, I did enjoy in a small bite of dark chocolate on a very regular basis and have a very happy, smiley and lively little boy!) The scientists believe phenylethylamine, a mood-altering chemical in chocolate, may be responsible for the joyful little babes.

The study also explored the correlation between the stress level the women where experiencing and how much chocolate they consumed. Stressed women who ate chocolate were more likely to say their babies were less fearful in new situations. While Stressed women who didn’t eat chocolate said their babies were quite fearful in new situations.(2)

In all fairness, it must be added that the scientists said that while they could not rule out other factors, they speculated that the results could be linked to chocolate consumption. (3)

AGAIN, I WARN, DO NOT OVER INDULGE IN THE CREAMY RICHNESS OF CHOCOLATE!!! MODERATION IS KEY!!

Here is my final declaration to the wonders of chocolate: Chocolate has higher levels of magnesium than any other food except seaweed (like dulse and alaria). (4) According to Anne Frye, author of Holistic Midwifery, adequate sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium intake will help prevent leg cramps.(5) So for those mamas that are experiencing those nasty calf cramps, a little dark chocolate (and hydration!) may bring some relief to those sore legs.

When I have mentioned the yummy benefits of chocolate in my prenatal yoga classes, it is sometimes met with concern about caffeine intake. Some women chose to completely abstain from any caffeine during their pregnancy, while others modify consumption. The March of Dimes recommends that women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant consume no more than 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day. This is the amount of caffeine in about one 12-ounce cup of coffee(6). To get a sense of fair comparison between the serving size of chocolate and the recommended limit, an average serving size (1.45 oz.) of Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar will contain 31 milligrams (mg) of caffeine. So if you are comfortable with a little caffeine in your diet, a small nip of chocolate is well within that realm.

For those that are now on board and unabashedly want to dive mouth first into Willy Wonka’s chocolate river, you can broaden your chocolate palate at the upcoming New York Chocolate Show. The Chocolate Show is returning to the Metropolitan Pavilion November 10th – 13th.

The event will feature some of the top chocolatiers and pastry chefs like Jacques Torres, Zac Young and Johnny Iuzzini from Top Chef Just Desserts, Francois Payard, and chocolate companies like Michel Cluizel, Valrhona, Guittard, Liddabit Sweets, and many more.

This event is also great for kids! There will be some very exciting events in The Kids Zone and chocolate arts and crafts. New to the Kids Zone in 2011 is a “chocolate grab” game where kids can win tickets to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular® starring the world-famous Radio City Rockettes. The chocolate grab will take place two to three times daily. Each child will grab a handful of chocolate and the child who finds a specially wrapped piece of chocolate will win tickets. Also, American Heritage Chocolate (owned by Mars) is going to have a colonial style themed booth where the workers will be dressed in period costumes and educating consumers on the history of chocolate in the US. Definitely fun for kids!

The best part of The Chocolate Show? Children are free with a two child per adult limit, $8 per additional child (5 years to 12 years)

For more information about the Chocolate Show, visit Chocolate Show New York.

I am planning on going with my family on Thursday. Hope to see you there!

Sources
1. Chocolate May Reduce Pregnancy Complication Risks, Reuters Health
2. Chocolate ‘makes for happy babies’, BBC News
3. Chocolate ‘makes for happy babies’, BBC News
4. Nutrition Articles by Radiant Health
5. Frye, Anne. Holistic Midwifery, pg 955
6. March of Dimes

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