Vitamin C

5.12.08: Chocolate may help prevent preeclampsia

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This week, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that pregnant women who consume chocolate may reduce their risk for preeclampsia—a complication of pregnancy involving high blood pressure, swelling, and abnormal kidney function, which can lead to seizures and even death if left untreated.

It's no newsflash that chocolate can help reduce hypertension. Just think about all the times you've binged on chocolate to blow off a little steam. We wouldn't do it if it didn't work. But, now we're finding out more about why it works, and how it's helping pregnant women everywhere: A Yale research study published in the May issue of Epidemiology tracked the chocolate consumption of 2,000 pregnant women in their first and third trimesters to determine levels of a chemical called theobromine, a natural blood vessel dialator and muscle relaxer. The study found that women with the highest theobromine levels were 69 percent less likely to develop preeclampsia than those who consumed the least.

So ladies, dig in. (In moderation of course—chocolate is also full of caffeine and empty calories.) Because when you're pregnant, and you're asked to give up a whole host your favorite things—your morning coffee, diet softdrinks, sushi, soft cheeses, alcohol, and even your lunchtime staple turkey sandwich—well, it's nice to be able to enjoy a guilty pleasure with a guilt-free conscience.

Head on over to our Recipe Finder for a pregnancy-friendly version of peppermint brownies or maybe a banana-chocolate milk shake. It may be just what the doctor ordered.

If nothing else, I can personally attest to the fact that chocolate makes the sweetest babies.

Dana Rousmaniere is FitPregnancy.com's Managing Editor. She considers chocolate to be the fifth major food group.

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