'Pregnant women eat chocolate!' announced news headlines last year. These articles described a study that found eating chocolate daily can benefit your unborn baby!
Given the lengthy list of foods that women are told to avoid during pregnancy - including seafood, soft cheese and alcohol - this news is likely warmly welcomed by mums-to-be. Plus, most women love chocolate!
IT'S THE FLAVONOIDS
Chocolate - particularly dark chocolate - contains flavonoids. This is a naturally occurring compound that is rich in antioxidants. Flavonoids are part of the polyphenol - a type of phytochemical - family.
Many foods such as vegetables, berries, red wine, and green tea contain flavonoids. Flavonoids are known for lowering the risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other common diseases.
Chocolate contains a type of flavanols that has been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular problems and lower cholesterol. The darker the chocolate, the more flavanols It has.
The study presented to the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine concluded that eating chocolate everyday has positive effects on a pregnant mum's foetal growth and development. This is because flavonoids in the chocolate improves blood flow in the mother's body.
Increased blood flow helps the placenta to develop and function normally. This should result in a good outcome for the pregnancy.
PREGNANT WOMEN EAT CHOCOLATE BUT KNOW WHEN TO STOP
But Dr Robyn Horsager-Boehrer from the UT Southwestern says it is important to look a little closer at the details of this study.
She points out that the study did not examine whether chocolate itself was good for pregnant women and their babies.
"I am also specifically concerned about when pregnant women should be eating chocolate." Are there possible negative effects of eating dark chocolate during the third trimester?
"Doctors have known for a long time that anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen can cause pulmonary hypertension in pregnant women. So, we caution expectant mums not to take them especially in the third trimester," says Dr Robyn.
She says research has also found that food rich in polyphenols (such as dark chocolate) can also trigger this condition.
"In this study, pregnant women were eating chocolate during the first trimester and second trimester. This study did not require the women to eat chocolate in the third trimester."
PREGNANT WOMEN EAT CHOCOLATE IN MODERATION
Robyn concludes that expectant mums can eat a little chocolate early in their pregnancy. As the study concludes, it can benefit your blood flow and therefore, your baby.
"And, when you get to your third trimester, talk to your doctor about whether you should scale back on your chocolate consumption," she says.
Also remember that chocolate doesn't have much nutritional value. So you never want to go overboard with it.
IF YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE CHOCOLATE DURING PREGNANCY, HERE ARE 6 THINGS TO REMEMBER:
1. Keep it pure
If you want chocolate, have chocolate not a chocolate cake. This gives the intense chocolate flavour without the extra calories and unhealthy fats
2. Opt for dark
The darker the chocolate, the more flavonoids (and usually less sugar) it contains. This is the stuff that is rich in antioxidants.
3. Think bite-size
30 grams a day is a bite-size amount of chocolate. Remember moderation is key.
4. Savour it
Slow down and enjoy it instead of gobbling it down on the go. This maximises the pleasure of eating it and stops you from overeating.
This article was first published in theAsianparent.