Expecting girls and new moms often invest superhuman powers to forgo the sweetest shade of brown over weight concerns. Unfortunately, by eliminating chocolate from the menu, weight watching ladies unknowingly rob themselves of various benefits the lady’s sweet friend packs in every bar. Chocolate has been human health’s ally for centuries now, and multiple studies have found it holds the potential to prevent and treat a range of conditions, which is why a mom-to-be shouldn’t skip her choco ratios. But what exactly are the biggest health gains chocolate has to offer to expecting and new moms and are there any safety concerns when it comes to chocolate intake by pregnant and breastfeeding ladies?
Healthy shade of sweet: Chocolate and health through history
The earliest traces of edible chocolate date back to 1900 BCE, which shows ancient civilizations were well-acquainted with the flavorful snack made from Theobroma cacao seeds. A majority of Mesoamerican civilizations, including the Maya, the Olmecs, and Aztecs, made chocolate drinks for both everyday use and ceremonial purposes, and they believed the beverage was a powerful health elixir with aphrodisiac properties.
In regions under Aztec reign, cacao beans were also used as currency, which only emphasizes the importance and value ancient peoples attached to chocolate.
Once the cocoa bean landed in Europe, its popularity quickly spread across the Old Continent, and so did its uses. Upon arrival in Spain, cocoa was mixed with sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon to make a delectable snack which won a place in the hearts (and bellies) of Dominican friars almost overnight. Back in 1569, the sweet treat was so popular that Pope Pius V moved to declare drinking chocolate on Friday did not break The Fast.
Scientists took interest in it as well, and they soon found that there’s much more to cocoa than meets a hungry palate.
Beyond the sweet tooth: Science-backed benefits of chocolate
Many studies into the effects of cocoa are unanimous: chocolate has a range of health benefits, which makes it a must on a pregnant lady’s menu. Here are just a few of the biggest health gains you’ll be in after adding cocoa snacks to your diet.
1. LDL cholesterol control
According to a 2008 study, a chocolate bar a day can help keep LDL cholesterol under control. In the experiment, researchers found consumption of chocolate containing plant sterols and cocoa flavanols as part of a low-fat diet can improve cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood pressure.
2. Heart disease prevention
A 2011 research published in the BMJ found that eating chocolate regularly can lower the risk of heart disease by a third. On top of keeping heart glitches at bay, chocolate can also be a lady’s trustworthy ally in combating stroke and sluggish circulation. A 2010 study found that eating chocolate can shave the risk of stroke by as many as 22%, and it can also trim mortality in stroke patients by 46%.
3. Fetal development boost
On top of keeping expecting and new moms safe from health hitches, chocolate is also good for their babies. A study presented at the 2016 Pregnancy Meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Atlanta found that eating 30 grams of chocolate a day can promote fetal growth and development and lower the risk of preeclampsia.
4. No glucose spikes in sight
Although most people think that chocolate intake can be a risk factor in diabetes development, a recent study found that intake of the brown sweet can in fact help counteract the disease. Due to high antioxidant content, chocolate can lower the risk of cardiometabolic conditions, helping future and new mothers keep tabs on blood glucose.
5. No mommy brain around
Mommy brain is real, and pregnant girls know it well. Fortunately, a bar of chocolate might just help chase away mental clouds and improve cognitive function and memory. Hot chocolate can boost blood flow to vital parts of the brain and thus dial up cognitive function, reduce damage to neural pathways, and slow down cognitive decline in Alzheimer's patients.
6. Pregnancy diarrhea relief
Pregnant ladies often struggle with diarrhea, and that’s another health hitch where a chocolate bar can be of use. Ever since the 16th century, cocoa has been used to treat diarrhea, and recent studies show that cocoa-related flavonoids can enhance protein binding and secretion of fluid in the small intestine, thus helping prevent, ease, and remedy diarrhea.
A safe dose of sweet: Chocolate, pregnancy, and breastfeeding
Don’t be fooled by common dietary misconceptions: chocolate is perfectly safe for pregnant and breastfeeding ladies. What’s more, expecting moms are recommended to eat first-rate natural and handcrafted chocolate because studies found it’s a safe guarantee your baby will smile and laugh more often as they grow. On top of that, regular intake of chocolate will help you prevent hormone-induced mood swings that commonly afflict pregnant girls – for as long as you have a limit and follow a balanced nutrition pattern, that is.
Still, even though a bit of chocolate never hurt a pregnant lady, once the stork delivers a bundle of joy to your doorstep, you’ll need to start watching your chocolate servings since theobromine and caffeine from cocoa may not agree with the baby’s sensitive digestive system. If you exceed baby-approved chocolate intake, be prepared to deal with junior’s nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irritability, rashes, appetite dips, hyperactivity, and insomnia.
More than meets the palate: Moderation is key to peak health
To stay on the safe, happy, and well-nourished side of the chocolate bar, watch your chocolate ratios during pregnancy and breastfeeding months. Too much of the brown sweet may not be all that good for a pregnant lady’s waistline, so try and limit your intake of chocolate unless you really want to take your baby weight to the ultimate level.
Apart from supersizing your clothing number, excess chocolate intake can reduce your appetite for other, less savory yet nutrient-denser staples and upset dietary balance. And that’s not all: if you acquire the habit of wolfing down one too many mouthfuls of the sweetest shade of brown every now and again, excess caffeine intake can interfere with lactation and compromise quality of your milk.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, pregnancy and breastfeeding don’t boil down to morning nausea, cravings, and no chocolate. Expecting girls and new moms can have their chocolate and eat it – for as long as they don’t overdo the cocoa bit all too often. Ready to take in all the health benefits chocolate has to offer to a new mom? Bon appétit!