Article at a Glance
- Studies suggest too much caffeine can be harmful for expecting mothers.
- Theobromine is a gentler, milder, and longer lasting (and pregnancy-safe!) stimulant naturally found in cacao and some teas.
- Suggestions on how to swap your morning coffee for the theobromine found in cacao.
Why is Too Much Caffeine Harmful for Expecting Mothers?
When you are pregnant, health experts suggest that it is important to limit your caffeine intake to less than 300 mg per day (~ 2 cups of coffee) (1). Studies show that caffeine can cross the placenta and have negative affects on the developing organs in the fetus. Caffeine also:
Stimulates the baby, keeping it active for a long time.
Stimulates the heart rate of the fetus, which could lead to sleep disturbances and irregular heartbeat (2).
Can build up caffeine reserves in the fetal body and after birth, the baby may show withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, jitteriness, and irritability (3).
Increase the blood pressure and heart rate, causing anxiety, insomnia and sleep problems (4)
Increases your frequency of urination, and removes water from the body, making you dehydrated (5).
Is addictive. When you stop it abruptly, you are most likely to experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, and headache (6).
While studies show limiting caffeine intake to 300 mg per day (1) is ideal, what are you going to do after that second cup of coffee?
What is Theobromine and What’s the “Better Energy” Fuss All About?
Many health professionals and nutrients have weighed in with a myriad of options, but many don’t provide your much needed energy boost. One increasingly popular and safe during pregnancy stimulants is theobromine.
Theobromine is a naturally occurring compound found in cacao and select tea plants. You’ll often hear theobromine mentioned in the same breath as cacao and even chocolate. This is because cacao is often the primary source of this naturally occurring stimulant. Cacao has long been known for its energizing effect and was even served to ancient Mayan chiefs because it was viewed as a gift from the gods. As such, when scientists decided to name the new genus of plant, they called it Theobroma Cacao which means “food of the gods.”
Theobromine is in the same class of stimulants as with caffeine. But theobromine is quite different from caffeine because it offers a longer lasting, more relaxed energy without the spike and crash. Unlike caffeine, theobromine is not a central nervous system stimulant and therefore doesn’t typically make you feel as on edge or jittery. For that same reason, theobromine is non-addictive. The energy from theobromine feels more akin to a good night’s sleep and also gives you a “holistic high” by making you feel more focused.
Theobromine and caffeine are similarly constructed types of pharmacologically active chemicals but with noticeably different effects. Theobromine is gentle, mild, has a slow onset, is long lasting and non-addictive whereas caffeine is intense, strong, fast acting, short lived and can be addictive.
What Else Can Theobromine Do For Me?
Aside from the longer-lasting, milder, and more pleasant energy source over caffeine, theobromine also helps improve circulation. Theobromine acts to dilate and widen your blood vessels which improves blood flow which also can have positive affects on the fetus. Improved circulation alone results in a whole host of additional benefits. Including:
Theobromine can help with brain function and helps to improve focus . In one study, after consuming cacao beverages, participants that were assigned certain tasks showed more interested and demonstrated greater calmness .
Interestingly, despite being a stimulant, theobromine can also help you to sleep at night as it helps to balance brain chemistry.
Theobromine helps to relax your lungs so you can breathe deeper, especially helpful if you have asthma.
Lower Blood Pressure
Theobromine helps to lower blood pressure due to the easier blood flow and also acts as a diuretic and smooth muscle relaxer  .
Improves Overall Cardiovascular Health
Increased flood flow from theobromine also means a greater amount of toxins that are cleaned out of your body. Studies have shown this could also potentially decrease risk of kidney stones, decrease onset effects of dementia, decrease risk of stroke, and help with similar brain diseases or blood vessel related dysfunction .
Should I Be Swapping Theobromine for Caffeine
Yes! The host of theobromine benefits speak for themselves and it is a great alternative to caffeine for expecting mothers. When it comes to swapping out caffeine for theobromine, your body, and your fetus may thank you. Even for non-expecting mothers, studies suggest consuming more than 400 mg of caffeine (4 cups of coffee worth) per day can be harmful (11), and theobromine offers a great swap option.
How Can I Get Me Some of this Theobromine?
Roasted, ground, and brewed just like coffee, brewed cacao has the flavor and aroma of pure dark chocolate plus high levels of theobromine. While it brews like coffee, you get the benefits of cacao with 350mg of theobromine and just 15mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup. Brewed cacao also is becoming a popular alternative for coffee due to its significantly lower levels of acidity vs. coffee especially for expecting mothers. Crio Bru brewd cacao is your best bet for great taste and high levels of theobromine. Learn more about the brewed cacao craze[here].
When it comes to natural sources of theobromine, cacao rules the roost. Brewed cacao and multiple servings of cacao powder are a great option to get more theobromine into your day.
Serving size for beverages= 1 cup or 8 oz. For Cacao Powder serving size = 1 tablespoon. For dark chocolate= 1.5 oz
That’s all there is to it! Try these food and beverage options to get more theobromine into your day and enjoy the “better energy” from a more natural, more honest energy source over caffeine. Your body and your baby may just thank you.References 1. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002445.htm
7. Scholey, A. B., French, S. J., Morris, P. J., Kennedy, D. O., Milne, A. L., & Haskell, C. F. (2010).
11. Sorond FA, Lipsitz LA, Hollenberg NK, Fisher ND.