If you’re craving chocolate during pregnancy you are certainly not alone.
Given that chocolate is comforting, satisfying, and of course absolutely delicious, it’s no surprise that it is one of the most popular cravings of among pregnant women.
So if you’re craving chocolate while expecting, you’re no doubt wondering if it’s safe to eat while pregnant.
Fortunately the answer is yes – chocolate is generally safe for pregnant women to eat, although it should be enjoyed in moderation and you should also consider how much sugar, fat and caffeine you get from other sources each day.
Let’s check out the benefits and risks of eating chocolate during your pregnancy in more detail.
Can You Eat Chocolate While Pregnant?
Like a lot of pregnancy and baby topics, eating chocolate (and drinking hot chocolate) while you’re expecting is something that’s been debated for some time.
The answer is not black and white, because to fully understand the risks there are a few additional considerations, including:
- How much you chocolate you eat.
- How frequently you eat chocolate.
- The type of chocolate, percentage of cocoa or cacao, and therefore the amount of sugar.
To help you decide how much chocolate you should eat while pregnant, we’ve explored some of the most important considerations below.
As with all food you eat during pregnancy, you should also ensure ingredients such as milk, cream and butter are all pasteurized.
Benefits of Eating Chocolate While Pregnant
In addition to satisfying your craving, eating chocolate may provide some other important benefits, including:
According to research, eating chocolate can reduce stress in not only highly stressed people, but also those with normal stress levels too.
As you may also be aware, many experts claim that dark chocolate has the ability to boost our mood, because when eaten it can stimulate our bodies to produce endorphins.
Many women find chocolate highly comforting because it has nostalgic or sentimental value.
Perhaps it was something you enjoyed on special occasions as a child?
Or maybe as an adult it’s you go-to treat when you’re feeling a little low or having a tough day?
Given the amount of strain and stress your body is going through during pregnancy, many moms-to-be find that a little bit of chocolate provides them with an instant and much needed relief.
As chocolate contains sugar and caffeine (just like many protein shakes incidentally), it’s a quick and easy way to get a quick boost of energy.
There are of course plenty of other (and healthier) foods that can provide energy, but if you’re in a hurry and fancy a treat, then what better way than to crack open a bar of chocolate!
Dark chocolate is naturally high in antioxidants such as polyphenols.
These antioxidants can help lower cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.
If you’re wondering what type of dark chocolate to go for, it’s best to opt for a bar that contains a minimum of 70% cocoa content.
Although it will taste a little more bitter than other chocolates, this will ensure it has a higher concentration of antioxidants and also less sugar compared to chocolate with lower cocoa percentages.
Disadvantages of Eating Chocolate While Pregnant
Unfortunately eating too much chocolate also comes with risks, which is why it’s one of those foods that should be enjoyed in moderation.
Relatively High In Caffeine
The darker the chocolate, the more caffeine it contains.
Caffeine occurs naturally in cocoa solids, and as dark chocolate has a higher content of cocoa solids, it therefore has a higher caffeine content.
White chocolate on the other hand does not contain any cocoa solids at all, but it does have high amounts of sugar (more on this later).
According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant women should not consume more than 200mg of caffeine per day (about 2 x 6oz cups).
Here is the amount of caffeine in one ounce (one square) of chocolate and one cup of filer coffee for reference:
Caffeine Levels in Chocolate vs Coffee
- Dark Chocolate: 12mg of caffeine per ounce (square)
- Milk Chocolate: 6mg of caffeine per ounce (square)
- White Chocolate: zero caffeine
- Single Espresso: 64mg of caffeine
- Cup of Filter Coffee: 96mg of caffeine
As you can see, the amount of caffeine in a square of dark chocolate is well below the 200mg daily limit.
However, the key thing for pregnant women to consider is how much caffeine you’re getting from other sources.
If you also drink 2 cups of coffer per day, then it doesn’t take much dark chocolate to push you over the recommended 200mg daily caffeine level.
High In Sugar
As most of us know all too well, chocolate is high in calories and sugar, which is why it’s sadly something that should be enjoyed in moderation during pregnancy.
In general, dark chocolate contains less sugar than white chocolate or candy bars, although as mentioned above it’s higher in caffeine.
For reference, dark chocolate is generally made with 20% to 30% sugar, while white chocolate can contain as much as 60% sugar.
High In Fat
Unfortunately one of the reasons why chocolate is delicious is because it’s high in fat.
The American Heart Association recommend we keep our fat intake to around 5% of daily calories and saturated fat to around 13 grams per day.
In terms of quantity of chocolate, this equates to around 3 squares of dark chocolate, and around 2 squares of white chocolate.
As with caffeine and sugar levels, what’s important to consider is not just how much fat is in the chocolate you eat during pregnancy, but how much saturated fat you’re getting from other sources of food or drink.
Is It Normal To Crave Chocolate During Pregnancy?
Yes, craving chocolate during pregnancy is very normal.
In fact, according to pregnancy research it’s actually one of the most most popular pregnancy cravings.
Experts believe pregnant women crave chocolate for two main reasons:
- Chocolate offers a sugar boost that provides a temporary pick-me-up.
- Chocolate is a comforting food that offers more value than pure nutrition. This is because for many people it has nostalgic or sentimental value.
Chocolate also contains B vitamins and as we covered above it’s high in antioxidants, so that might also be why your body craves it.
But for a lot of women the more likely reason for your craving is because chocolate has the ability to reduce your stress levels and boost your mood.
Can You Eat Chocolate During Your First Trimester?
In general it’s fine to occasionally eat chocolate during your first and second trimesters, as long as you don’t eat it in excessive amounts.
You should also take into consideration other sources of caffeine, sugar and fat within your diet, to ensure you’re not overdoing it on any of those fronts on a daily basis.
There is not a lot of scientific evidence to suggest chocolate is unsafe during your third trimester, but it is worth noting that results from one study showed that eating dark chocolate later in your pregnancy can cause a rare condition in which too much blood circulates into the heart and lungs of your fetus.
- Chocolate is one of the most popular cravings among pregnant women, because it’s delicious, provides an energy boost and can be instantly comforting.
- There are disadvantages to eating too much chocolate however, because the it’s often high in fat, sugar, caffeine and calories.
- There are wide nutritional differences between dark and white chocolate, with dark chocolate being lower in sugar and fat (but higher in caffeine).
- The most important factor to consider when deciding whether to eat chocolate during your pregnancy is how much caffeine, sugar and saturated fat you’re getting from other sources.
- As with most food and drink, moderation is key. As long as you make other healthier food choices, there’s no reason why you can’t occasionally enjoy some of your favorite chocolate during your pregnancy.
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