Your nutritional needs change during pregnancy, and some foods become unsafe to consume. Dark chocolate can provide benefits during pregnancy as long as you consume it in moderation. Watch out for potential negative effects such as caffeine intake and how it can affect your developing baby.
Dark chocolate is a source of antioxidants, which neutralize free acids in your body that can cause cell death. It also contains calcium that contributes to bone health. According to a review in a 2009 edition of the American Chemical Society’s "Journal of Proteome Research," eating 1 1/2 oz. of dark chocolate a day can reduce stress levels. The antioxidants in cocoa also offer other health benefits, including lower blood pressure. These benefits are specific to cocoa solids -- the bitter cocoa that's mixed with cocoa butter, milk and sugar to make chocolate. For this reason, dark chocolates, which have a higher percentage of cocoa solids, offer superior health benefits over milk chocolate.
Dark chocolate contains caffeine. During pregnancy, caffeine can decrease blood flow to the placenta, and large amounts may increase the risk of miscarriage. It is also a stimulant and can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. The March of Dimes recommends having only 200 mg or less of caffeine a day during pregnancy. Although 1 oz. of dark chocolate only contains 20 mg of caffeine, large amounts of dark chocolate can add up to an unsafe amount, especially if you consume other caffeine sources like coffee or soft drinks.
Chocolate and other types of candy are sources of simple carbohydrates, which can contribute to weight gain and decreased energy. A chocolate bar can have 230 calories and 13 g of fat. According to BabyCenter, you should avoid simple carbohydrates like dark chocolate if you have gestational diabetes, a pregnancy complication.
Eating large amounts of dark chocolate or any other sweets can reduce the amount of room you have in your body for healthy foods. During pregnancy, you need a balanced diet that includes lean protein, fruits, vegetables, dairy and whole grains. Be sure to eat dark chocolate in moderation and as part of a balanced and nutritious diet.
- TeensHealth: Smart Snacking
- March of Dimes: Caffeine in Pregnancy
- BabyCenter: Is It Safe to Eat a Lot of Chocolate During Pregnancy?
- KidsHealth: Staying Healthy During Pregnancy
- "Journal of Proteome Research"; Metabolic Effects of Dark Chocolate Consumption on Energy, Gut Microbiota, and Stress-Related Metabolism in Free-Living Subjects; Francois-Pierre J. Martin, et al.; 2009