Can Diabetics Eat Chocolate?
If you have diabetes, you can eat anything — although possibly not in the quantities you’d like. That includes chocolate. Some types of chocolate, such as dark chocolate, might even have health benefits, in moderation. Portion control is the key to enjoying foods like chocolate if you have diabetes, the American Diabetes Association reports. Dark chocolate is rich in polyphenols, plant substances that act as antioxidants and that might also help prevent heart disease and lower blood glucose levels.
Types of Chocolate
All chocolate is not created equal in terms of health benefits. When it comes to foods high in simple sugars, less is better if you have diabetes. Dark chocolate contains more cocoa and less sugar than milk chocolate, so you can eat a little more of it if you’re controlling your calories or sugar intake. With dark chocolate, the higher the cocoa percentage, the better it is for you. Look for dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa, registered dietitian Mitzi Dulan recommends. White chocolate contains no cocoa and is higher in calories and saturated fat than dark or milk chocolate.
According to a study that appeared in the January, 2015 issue of ARYA Atherosclerosis, high-cocoa polyphenol-rich chocolate lowers blood pressure and insulin resistance in patients with diabetes and high blood pressure. Insulin resistance restricts the uptake of glucose into cells, which causes blood glucose levels to rise. People who ate white chocolate did not experience a decrease in blood pressure or insulin resistance. In a British study published in the November 2010 issue of Diabetic Medicine, diabetics who consumed chocolate high in cocoa for 16 weeks experienced a decrease in total cholesterol and an increase in high-density lipoprotein, the so-called “good” cholesterol.
When you have diabetes, eating can become a numbers game. Keeping track of the amount of carbohydrate you eat daily can help you keep your blood sugar under control. Your doctor and dietitian can help you plan a diet that allows for some simple sugars each day; the amount will vary, depending on your blood glucose levels and activity levels. Most of your carbohydrates should come from complex carbohydrates, because they help stabilize your blood sugar. The amount of simple sugars in chocolate varies, with 15 grams per ounce in milk chocolate, 15 grams in white chocolate and around 13 grams per ounce in dark chocolate.
Viewing chocolate as good for you can tempt you to eat more of it than you should. While chocolate may have some health benefits, eating too much will lead to weight gain, the number one risk factor for type 2 diabetes, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Adding a 200-calorie bar of dark chocolate without subtracting something else from your diet will add 1,400 calories per week to your total; over one year, this will lead to a 20-pound weight gain, since it takes 3,500 calories to put on 1 pound of weight. Replace a sugary snack with dark chocolate instead.