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Is Dark Chocolate Good for Diabetes? Assessing the Superfood
Diabetes

Is Dark Chocolate Good for Diabetes? Assessing the Superfood

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on 2022 August 14
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5 min

Limiting sugary foods is vital for managing your blood sugar levels when you have diabetes. Chocolate and diabetes are not always the best match, but dark chocolate has less saturated fat and sugar than white and milk chocolate. We explain if it is good for diabetes and bring 4 health benefits of this antioxidant-rich treat.

Is dark chocolate good for diabetes

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Identifying the most healthful foods to keep your blood sugars in check can be challenging.

While no food is off-limits for people with diabetes, some spike glucose levels quicker than others. A healthy diet for diabetes consists of various foods, including fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.

Sugar, fat, and salt should be kept to a minimum, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy chocolate and other tasty desserts from time to time. Certain goods in moderation may even bring some health benefits.

If you want to eat chocolate, you’re probably wondering about its effects on blood glucose. In this article, you will discover if dark chocolate is good for diabetes control.

Is Dark Chocolate Good for Diabetes?

Yes, dark chocolate is diabetes-friendly when eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Despite containing carbs and sugar, it has a low glycemic index of 23, which means it is slowly absorbed into the bloodstream and doesn’t cause rapid glucose spikes.

Eating dark chocolate can help control your blood sugar content and improve insulin resistance.

Cocoa and dark chocolate contain polyphenols, organic compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that protect against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress may speed up the development of diabetes complications. Therefore, antioxidants may be effective in treating diabetes.

High-quality dark chocolate has a high percentage of cocoa. Cocoa may help stimulate insulin secretion, improve insulin sensitivity, and improve glucose tolerance in people with diabetes.

Eating dark chocolate also promotes better heart health, an important factor for people with diabetes who are more prone to heart disease and other heart-related conditions. Polyphenol-rich chocolate can improve triglyceride levels, reduce high blood pressure, and decrease fasting blood sugar.

Dark chocolate isn’t short of essential nutrients either. The fiber content helps control blood glucose as it doesn’t cause spikes like other carbs. Dietary fiber also promotes satiety, helping you keep a healthy weight to improve and better manage your diabetes.

Magnesium, another essential nutrient, plays an important role in blood glucose management, improving insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. You can also benefit in some ways from magnesium for weight loss.

Does Dark Chocolate Raise Blood Sugar?

Dark chocolate has a low glycemic index and is therefore classed as a low GI food. Low glycemic foods break down in the body more slowly and cause a gradual rise in blood sugar levels. So, consuming dark chocolate will not raise blood sugar unless you eat it excessively.

Dark chocolate may even lower blood sugar levels thanks to flavonoids, which positively affect diabetes.

How fast does chocolate raise blood sugar?

How fast your blood sugar rises after eating chocolate depends on factors like the nutrition content and how much you eat. As a low glycemic food, small portions will not significantly impact blood glucose levels as it digests more slowly.

Blood sugar levels may rise more quickly after eating chocolate in large amounts. It can affect your blood in as little as half an hour but will reach its peak about an hour later.

How to Choose the Best Dark Chocolate for Diabetes: Follow This Guide

If you have diabetes, you can make your desserts healthier by always checking the label and reading the nutrition facts. Remember, not all chocolate is equal. Check the percentage of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) and the cocoa and sugar content.

The top tips for choosing the best dark chocolate to include in your diabetes diet:

  • Look for chocolate bars with less sugar and more fiber.
  • Be cautious of any extra ingredients that may affect your blood glucose levels, such as dried fruit and caramel. Manufacturers often add additional components to commercial chocolate.
  • Keep in mind that the higher the percentage of cocoa, the better! Dark chocolate has 50–90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. Look for dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa.

You might come across specially-made “diabetic” chocolate. It is made with sugar substitutes, such as sweeteners and sugar alcohols. However, these products may cause laxative effects, and many still contain high fat and calories.

Sugar-free dark chocolate sweetened with stevia, erythritol, and inulin may lower glucose levels. That said, you should be careful about choosing artificially-sweetened dark chocolate. Some artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols can cause digestive issues.

How Much Dark Chocolate Can a Person With Diabetes Eat per Day?

For most people, the recommended serving size of dark chocolate is 30–60 grams. For people with diabetes, the serving size is best restricted to just a few squares, with no more than 20–30 grams. 

That way, you can enjoy chocolate and reap the health benefits without taking in too many calories, carbs, saturated fat, and sugar.

Too much of the above can increase your blood sugar levels. Keep in mind that dark chocolate’s high calorie and fat content can also contribute to weight gain with excessive consumption. A 100g serving of dark chocolate has 512 calories and 39.5g of fat.

The good thing about dark chocolate is its strong and bitter flavor. It may be easier to control your intake of bittersweet chocolate as you may be less likely to eat it excessively.

4 Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate for Diabetes

Dark chocolate makes a safer option for individuals with diabetes because it is loaded with potent antioxidants and nutrients that support healthy glucose levels and overall health. A few squares of a dark chocolate bar provide an indulgent yet nutritious treat with superfood powers.

Here are 4 reasons dark chocolate consumption is a positive addition to an overall healthy lifestyle.

#1 Decreases stress and improves mood

Many people consume chocolate during times of stress. It brings joy as the flavonoids in cocoa and chocolate have beneficial effects on the brain. Epicatechin, the primary flavonoid present, improves cognitive function and induces positive mood changes.

Both dark and milk chocolate intake have been shown to reduce perceived stress due to the cocoa polyphenols. Dark chocolate consumption may even reduce symptoms of depression.

#2 Might help to control appetite

Dark chocolate promotes satiety, reduces sugar cravings, and suppresses energy intake. Swapping milk chocolate for the dark variety helps individuals feel less hungry and more satisfied.

In promoting appetite control, dark chocolate can promote weight loss – a bonus for people who have diabetes, as weight management is a critical aspect of controlling the condition. Losing even 5 pounds can have remarkable benefits and may prevent some health issues that come with diabetes.

#3 Improves blood flow

The flavonoid compounds in dark chocolate may improve blood flow by keeping the arteries healthy and more reactive to stress. They can support the body in producing more nitric oxide (NO), the compound that triggers the blood vessels to dilate so blood can flow more easily.

Polyphenol-rich foods like cocoa can decrease cardiovascular risk and prevent cardiovascular events by lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients.

#4 Powerful source of antioxidants

Cocoa is one of the richest sources of antioxidants, with more phenolic antioxidants than most foods. Antioxidants have countless benefits for human health and are associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases.

Those in cocoa can directly improve insulin resistance, boost the immune system, and promote satiety – all excellent advantages for diabetes.

FAQs

Does dark chocolate lower blood sugar?

Dark chocolate contains lots of antioxidants that may naturally lower blood sugar by improving the way the body uses insulin. Antioxidants help the body fight against oxidative stress, which may reduce diabetes complications.

What kind of chocolate is best for people with diabetes?

Dark chocolate is likely the best choice for individuals with diabetes as it has fewer carbohydrates, fat, and sugar. It provides a potent source of polyphenols, which have multiple benefits and may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance in those who have or are at risk of developing diabetes.

Is it bad to eat dark chocolate every day if you have diabetes?

No, it is not bad to eat dark chocolate every day if you have diabetes. Dark chocolate may have significant advantages for those with diabetes as it is associated with greater insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control. However, you must moderate your intake of chocolate to avoid consuming too much sugar, carbs, and calories.

A Word From Our MD

Dark chocolate may be called semi or bittersweet chocolate. It is made of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. It has a higher percentage of cocoa than milk chocolate and doesn’t contain milk. This gives dark chocolate its intense flavor.

Dark chocolate consumption is perfectly suitable for a diabetes diet plan with mindful quantities. All chocolate, including dark, milk, and white chocolate, should be consumed in small amounts as part of a healthy diet. This will not only support healthy blood sugars but also prevent weight gain.

The right amount can positively influence insulin resistance, while too much will spike blood glucose. Like anything, moderation is key. Eating healthy requires a balance of nutritious foods that bring different health benefits to the table.

Finding this balance is essential for people with diabetes as you must monitor your calories, macros, and sugars. If you’re thinking about how to incorporate chocolate into your diabetes diet, talk to your doctor. They can advise you on how to navigate chocolate and diabetes.

If you’re not ready to fully incorporate chocolate into your diet, you can try small amounts, like adding grated dark chocolate or raw cocoa powder over smoothies and oatmeal.

If you want to try keto for diabetes, unfortunately, dark chocolate is not keto-friendly. Outside of keto, however, you can safely consume limited amounts.

Conclusion

So, is dark chocolate and diabetes a match?

Yes, in moderation. Dark chocolate has a clear advantage over regular milk and white chocolate for people with diabetes. Sensible doses may aid in lowering insulin resistance and improving insulin sensitivity – two critical factors in diabetes management.

It contains lots of nutrients and bioactive compounds that can boost your health all around. It aids in reducing heart disease, protects skin from sun damage, and may even lower cancer risk.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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