Many pregnant women experience cravings for chocolate. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that you avoid consuming refined sugars during pregnancy because it has a low nutritive value and may increase your risk for gestational diabetes. Recent studies, such as a 2008 study in the journal "Molecules," indicate that raw cacao has health benefits such as antioxidants. Consult your physician before you consume raw cacao beans or other products during pregnancy.
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Teya Skae, nutritional consultant and author of Examining the Properties of Chocolate and Cacao for Health in "Nourished" Magazine states that chocolate and cacao are not the same. Chocolate is made from processed cacao, and because sugar, butter and other less healthy ingredients are added to it, it has little nutritional value. Raw cacao beans, on the other hand, contain anti-oxidants as well as other vitamins and minerals, and does not contain sugar or other additives. Purchase raw cacao beans in natural food stores or online.
Benefits of Cacao During Pregnancy
Raw cacao could benefit a pregnant woman. For example, according to A. Christine Harris, Ph.D., author of "The Pregnancy Journal," states that raw cacao is beneficial for pregnant women because it contains B vitamins and minerals such as copper, calcium, manganese, zinc, magnesium, sulfur, potassium and iron. Aside from these vitamins and minerals, Abbe M.M. Jalil of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the Universiti Putra in Malaysia suggests that the cacao bean is the source of the antioxidant polyphenols that may prevent cancer and heart disease.
How to Use Raw Cacao
You can eat cacao beans raw, according to Skae. However, raw cacao beans have a bittersweet flavor that may be too strong for a pregnant woman who is experiencing taste or smell sensitivity. Add them to a healthy fruit smoothie or use them in a variety of recipes, from a savory mole sauce to chili, according to David Wolfe, author of "Naked Chocolate." Wolfe states that you can also use raw cacao in desserts such as chocolate mousse.
Raw cacao and other chocolate products contain caffeine, according to Joanne Stone, author of "The Pregnancy Bible." According to Skae, the amount of caffeine contained in a 40-gram bar of dark chocolate is less than one cup of decaffeinated coffee. However, caffeine has been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage, according to Stone, so you should consult your obstetrician before you add raw cacao or unsweetened dark chocolate to your diet.