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Q
Choosing a Healthy Mother's Day Gift?

My wife is pregnant with our first child so I want to give her a Mother's Day gift this year. Any suggestions for a healthy gift for a mother-to-be? She loves chocolate. Does that qualify?

A
Answer (Published 5/7/2004)

Yes, some good quality dark chocolate would be a very nice Mother's Day gift for any mom or mom-to-be. Look for dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa. Chocolate has a number of health benefits. It is a source of polyphenols, the same kinds of antioxidants found in red wine and green tea. The fat it contains is mostly stearic acid, which doesn't raise cholesterol levels. It also contains compounds called flavonoids, which are good for the heart. They reduce the stickiness of platelets, inhibiting blood clotting and reducing the danger of coronary artery blockages.

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New research indicates that babies may benefit, too, when their mothers eat chocolate during pregnancy. Researchers in Finland asked 300 pregnant women to record their stress levels and keep track of their chocolate consumption, and then followed the children after birth. The results of the study showed that at six months of age, the babies of women who ate chocolate during pregnancy smiled and laughed more often. Likewise, the children of women who had high stress and ate chocolate showed less fear in new situations than the babies of stressed mothers who passed up chocolate when they were pregnant.

While there's no proven link between the chocolate and the babies' behavior, the researchers speculated that the cheerfulness noted among some of the babies could stem from the effect in the womb of their mothers' positive moods, possibly stemming from the chemicals in chocolate. Results of the study were published in the April 6, 2004 issue of New Scientist.

As an alternative to quality chocolate as a Mother's Day gift, you might consider a beautiful bouquet of flowers or a long-lasting flowering plant, perhaps one that could be planted in the garden after it has stopped blooming. Flowers are always a welcome gift for their beauty, fragrance and the lift they give our spirits.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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