Is Raw Cacao Powder Safe During Pregnancy?

Raw cacao powder is a less processed version of cocoa known for its many health benefits. It usually raises concerns about safety during pregnancy because of the caffeine and theobromine content in it.

While these compounds are found in smaller amounts than in coffee, their effects on pregnancy is something to consider. This article explores everything you need to know about raw cacao powder during pregnancy, including how to safely add to your pregnancy diet.

What Is Raw Cacao Powder?

Is Raw Cacao Powder Safe During Pregnancy?

Raw cacao powder is made out of cacao beans. These beans form the basis in making all sorts of chocolate. Unlike the chocolate you find in candy bars, raw cacao is unprocessed. It’s made by cold pressing the beans taken out of the fruit of the cacao tree, without roasting.

Also, unlike the cocoa powder used in making sweet chocolate desserts, cacao powder isn’t heated up as much, so it’s thought to keep more of its natural health benefits like being high in antioxidants, minerals (such as iron and magnesium) and mood-enhancing chemicals. It sounds pretty appealing, doesn’t it?

Is Raw Cacao Powder Safe During Pregnancy?

Yes, it is safe, but in bits. In moderation, raw cacao powder can be a healthy part of a pregnant woman’s diet. It contains caffeine and a stimulant called theobromine. Though the levels are way lower than in coffee, they are still something to think about because both caffeine and theobromine cross the placenta.

While a little might be okay, too much caffeine or theobromine isn’t recommended during pregnancy because they can affect your baby’s growth and even lead to some complications.

Research by the National Library of Medicine found that consuming more theobromine during pregnancy might affect the development of blood vessels in embryos and later influence how their immune systems function after birth.

So, the key is to not overdo it. Most health professionals agree that a small amount of caffeine up to 200 mg per day (which is about a 12 oz cup of coffee) is okay during pregnancy.

A little raw cacao powder should be fine as part of that limit. But every pregnancy is different, so it’s always best to talk to your doctor or a dietitian about what’s best for you.

Remember, when you do enjoy raw cacao, it’s also about what you mix it with. Keep your treats healthy by avoiding too much sugar or unhealthy fats. That way, you can have your (chocolatey) cake and eat it, too, knowing it’s a safe and healthier choice for you and your little one.

How much cacao can i have while pregnant

Moderating your intake of certain foods and beverages is crucial for your baby’s health, and this includes products like chocolate or raw cacao. Generally, it’s recommended to limit caffeine intake to no more than 200 mg per day during pregnancy.

Since it has caffeine, then you’d need to account for the caffeine content in the set limit. For safety’s sake, take small amounts; a couple of teaspoons mixed into smoothie or yogurt is a fantastic idea. This way, you reap the benefits without going overboard.

Health Benefits of raw cacao for pregnant women

Eating cacao in pregnancy can offer some sweet perks as long as you’re not binging on it. Here’s how a bit of it can be good for pregnant mamas:

1. It boosts your mood

Raw cacao can be the perfect way to lift your spirits when pregnant. This is because it is a powerhouse of natural substances that make you happy and relaxed. You know, during this period, your body is constantly changing, and you might sometimes feel a bit down or stressed out.

Adding a bit of raw cacao powder to that smoothie can help brighten your day. This sudden mood boost is due to one of its ingredients known as phenylethylamine. Some people also call it the “love drug” because it is the same chemical your brain releases when you’re in love or enthused.

There’s another happy ingredient in cacao powder called serotonin. It also helps you destress and boost your mood. So, adding raw cacao powder to your diet can act like a natural mood enhancer and relieve you of persistent mood swings.

2. Rich in antioxidants

Antioxidants are known to protect your body from free radicals. Free radicals are sneaky stuff that can harm us, but antioxidants fight them off and keep things running as perfectly as we want them. This protection is superb for baby’s growth and your own health too. In simple terms, eating foods full of antioxidants like cacao powder shields you and the growing baby.

3. Magnesium power

Pregnancy can be stressful, and it becomes important to stay calm, of which magnesium could be helpful. Magnesium is also needed to overcome muscle cramps that are pretty common during pregnancy.

Just before I forget, your baby’s bones need this to be strong and healthy, too. As babies develop, they need to build a sturdy skeleton, and magnesium is one of the building blocks for that.

So, when you munch on raw cacao, you’re not just treating yourself to something yummy. You’re also giving your body some magnesium power, which is great for both you and your baby. 

4. Iron woman

You can’t do this journey without iron. Your body needs them the most to make more blood to enhance baby’s growth. Raw cacao steps in as a tasty snack that adds a little extra iron to your diet. It helps you feel more energetic and ensure baby gets all the good stuff to grow strong.

Just a reminder: To help your body utilize iron from cacao, it’s good to eat something with vitamin C at the same time, maybe orange or strawberries; because Vitamin C is like a booster that helps your body pick up more of iron.

5. Heart-healthy

Your heart works extra hard during these times as it pumps blood to both you and your growing one. Raw cacao is a kind of heart-healthy savior because it has stuff that keeps your blood moving smoothly and the blood vessels in good shape.

This helps keep your blood pressure at a good level, which is super helpful, because high blood pressure could be risky at this time. Another neat thing is that the good stuff in raw cacao can also keep the cholesterol from rising. You want to keep this in check to reduce the risk of heart problems.

So, when you treat yourself to a small amount of raw cacao, you’re not just enjoying something yummy—you’re taking care of your heart, too.

Incorporating Raw Cacao Into Pregnant Woman’s Diet

Adding raw cacao into your diet is an excellent way to nibble on a nutritious and healthy snack for both the baby and you. Here’s how you can get into your diet without going overboard:

  • Smoothies: Blend raw cacao powder into your fruit smoothies. It gives a rich chocolatey flavor plus a nutritional boost. Mixing it with fruits like berries or bananas not only tastes great but also adds natural sweetness and lots of vitamins.
  • Oatmeal: Stir a bit of it into your morning oatmeal. It’ll make breakfast feel like a treat while giving you iron and antioxidants that are good for your heart and energy levels.
  • Snack Bars: You can make your own healthy snack bars with raw cacao. Mix it with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for a portable snack that’s both satisfying and packed with nutrients.
  • Yogurt: Mix a little cacao powder in raw Greek yogurt for a fast and easy treat. This combo makes the perfect creamy treat that’s high in calcium, protein as well as the health benefits of cacao.
  • Pancakes: Simply add raw cacao powder to batter to make special pancakes. This will turn a normal breakfast into a delicious chocolatey treat, plus it is a great way to begin your day off with a healthy dose of antioxidants.

Keep in mind that although raw cacao is nutritious, however, it can contain caffeine, which is why moderate consumption is essential. It’s an excellent idea to combine it with foods that are high in vitamin C (like citrus fruits or strawberries) so that your body could absorb more iron from the cacao.  As always, it’s perfect to talk with your obstetrician regarding any changes in your diet during pregnancy.

Alternatives To Raw Cacao During Pregnancy

If you’re seeking other options for their taste and benefits, there are several you could choose from:

  • Carob: Carob is a perfect substitute for raw cacao powder because it tastes like chocolate and is naturally sweet. It comes without caffeine, making it safe for preggy moms.  You can use it just as you’d do for baking, smoothies and snack foods.
  • Dark Chocolate: If you still crave chocolate but want to do away with caffeine completely,  then darker chocolate (ideally 70 percent cocoa or more) could be a great alternative. It is less caffeinated than raw cacao and provides some antioxidants.
  • Fruits: To give a completely different option, fresh or dried fruits could be your go-to. They are healthy and full of vitamins good for you and the baby.
  • Nuts and seeds: They are full of nutrients including omega-3 fats, protein and fiber, all of which are useful during pregnancy. They are great snacks and can be added to yogurt, salads or oatmeal to give you an extra boost in nutrition.
  • Dates: Dates are sweet and pack high amounts of fiber,  which can get rid of pregnancy-related constipation. They also offer a substantial amount of potassium and magnesium.

These alternatives provide various nutritional benefits and keep your diet interesting. When choosing any food during pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to keep balance in mind and consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice suited to your health needs.

What Is The Difference Between Raw Cacao And Cocoa Powder

I get asked this question a lot; let’s clarify the difference here! Raw cacao powder is almost unprocessed. They cold-press the unroasted cocoa beans, keeping most of the natural benefits of the beans.

It is also more bitter than regular cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is the number one ingredient in brownies and choco cakes. It is made by roasting cocoa beans at a high temperature before grinding to powder.

This produces a more mild flavor and a sweeter taste than raw cacao. Additionally, due to the intense heat it has lost a lot of the health-promoting properties that are found in cacao roasted. The main distinction is in their manufacturing process as well as the quantity of cocoa beans that are left in the cocoa beans.

Is Raw Cacao Powder Safe During Pregnancy? – Final Say

Raw cacao powder can be a safe and healthy addition to your pregnancy diet as far as you’re not overeating it. It’s packed with some good benefits for both mom and baby such as antioxidants and iron. However, since it contains caffeine and a stimulant known as theobromine, it’s rather best to eat it in bits.

If there’s something you don’t understand, feel free to turn to your OB-GYN. Remember, there are many other tasty and nutritious food items out there that are perfect for women in the midst of pregnancy, too!

Georgina Austin, CNM

Georgina Austin, CNM

Hello! I'm Gina, a certified midwife, a writer, an experienced one of course, and a proud mother of twins, Noel and Noelle. With eleven years of maternity support experience and my own journey through motherhood, I offer reliable information on women's health here on this blog.

In addition to writing about pregnancy and breastfeeding, I cover topics like sexual health, birth control, egg donation, sibling relationships, and managing life with multiple children. So, whatever issue you're facing as a woman, I've got you covered!