10 Reasons Pregnant Women Should Eat Chocolateby Dianna Graveman | March 19, 2012 7:39 AM
Oh, those pregnancy cravings! Sometimes you just want something a little salty, a little sweet, or a little spicy--even if you know you'll pay for it later with a nasty case of heartburn or the next time you have to step on the scale at the doctor's office.
But take heart! One of the world's most delectable treats--dark chocolate--has been given a star of approval by medical professionals and nutritionists for its health benefits, especially for moms-to-be. Recent research has even shown it can lower your blood pressure, increase your mood, and prevent your risk of developing pre-eclampsia.
Here are ten reasons why you might want to consider enjoying a little bit of dark chocolate now and then while you're pregnant:
- Dark chocolate is especially rich in theobromine, a chemical that stimulates the heart. Theobromine also relaxes smooth muscle and dilates blood vessels.
- According to a 2008 article from Anthem BlueCross BlueShield, research suggests that dark chocolate can help prevent pre-eclampsia, a condition in which a woman's blood pressure increases rapidly during pregnancy. This complication causes excess protein to be released into the urine. If the condition is not treated quickly, it can lead to serious or even fatal results for a pregnant woman and her baby.
- Dr. Elizabeth Triche from Yale University led a research team that found that women who ate the most chocolate had babies with a high concentration of theobromine in their umbilical cord blood. These women were the least likely to develop pre-eclampsia. The study was published in the May 2008 issue of May issue of Epidemiology.
- Theobromine has also been used to treat high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries, suggesting chocolate has health benefits beyond those specific to pregnant women.
- Another chemical in chocolate, magnesium, also lowers blood pressure and can help prevent hypertension.
- Flavanoids, which are contained in chocolate, are potent antioxidants. According to the Mayo Clinic, antioxidants are helpful because they can neutralize toxic byproducts called free radicals. These toxic byproducts can be introduced into your body by exposure to things like cigarette smoke and pesticides. Free radicals are even produced as byproducts of natural cell metabolism within our own bodies. Antioxidants can help keep these free radicals from providing a pathway to cancer and other diseases. Important note: The darker the chocolate is, the more flavanoids it contains!
- Chocolate can help your mood, too! The properties in chocolate stimulate the production of neurotransmitters called endorphins in your brain, spinal cord, and other parts of your body. An increase in endorphins can give you an overall feeling of well being or pleasure. Endorphins are also known as the body's own "natural pain killer." (You can boost your production of endorphins with a brisk daily walk, too!)
- Dark chocolate has been found to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by up to 10 percent.
- Another property in chocolate--serotonin--acts as an antidepressant and can also lift your mood.
- A healthy monounsaturated fat called oleic acid is contained in chocolate. This is the same monounsaturated fat contained in olive oil. Chocolate also contains a saturated fat called stearic acid, but research shows stearic acid does not have a negative effect on cholesterol.
So go head: satisfy that craving for a little chocolate! Now you have ten very good reasons to treat yourself!
Important note: Women who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes should consult their caregivers about their diet and the consumption of simple carbohydrates. And remember that too much chocolate, as with any dessert, can lead to unwanted weight gain and other complications during pregnancy.
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