Dark Chocolate is Our Friend, Even To Those with Diabetes (So go ahead and Indulge!)

By: Joe Martinez, RPh, PDE, CMS, Founder and CCO, HMS

Contributor: Emily Simmons

The CDC reports 9.8 percent of the U.S. population have diabetes. That means 9.8 percent of the population are always making choices about what to eat or not to eat.  And sometimes, it’s depressing how long the list of ‘not to eat’ foods is. But wait, here’s a little bit of happiness that you may not have known about.

Did you know that there are some types of chocolate that are good for you, even if you are diabetic? I’ve been in this movie for more than 20+ years. In fact, I’m a diabetes educator. And I’m here to tell you, that when it comes to dark chocolate, I say, go ahead and indulge a little bit. It is actually healthy for you in moderation.  

There are three types of real chocolate: milk , dark and white. All three come from the cacao tree. The amount of cacao powder and cacao butter are what differentiates one chocolate from another. Of the three, dark chocolate has

  • the most cacao powder,
  • the least amount of sugar and
  • polyphenols, natural molecules that act like antioxidants.

For all of these reasons, but especially the third, dark chocolate is the healthiest choice of chocolate. Here’s why.  The polyphenols in dark chocolate help sensitize your cells to insulin. This sensitivity encourages cells to absorb more sugar from your bloodstream, which in turn lowers blood sugar levels. Incorporating this sweet treat into your breakfast, lunch, dinner or of course, dessert can help keep your blood sugar at bay.

Dark chocolate also helps maintain cholesterol, blood pressure, and helps with heart disease. It’s high antioxidant properties keeps your cells from oxidizing and wreaking havoc in your system.

It can be quite daunting to make the best choice with so many products on the market . Here are some tips that will keep you from getting a ‘dark’ headache next time you visit the chocolate aisle:

  • Look for chocolate that has a 70% or higher cocoa content. The higher the percentage, the more bitter it will be but depending on your taste buds, can prove very tasty for you.
  • Always, Always, Always check the ingredient list on the ‘Back’ of the label. If you’d never judge a book by it’s cover, you should never judge your food by its front label either.
  • Ingredients are listed in descending order, meaning that the first five ingredients are usually what the product is mostly made up of. In this case, Cocoa should always be the first.
  • Never consider buying a brand that lists sugar as its first ingredient. As mentioned previously, the higher the cocoa content, the more bitter the chocolate will be so of course some sugar is usually added. Choose a brand that specializes in using unrefined sugars for an even better health boost.
  • Avoid “alkalized” or “dutched” dark chocolate which , reduces its antioxidant properties due to its processing. Try to find raw cacao as much as possible for the purest form of cacao.
  • Select chocolate that is made organic and using fair trade practices. This not only ensures that you are buying chocolate without additives and potentially harmful chemicals but also ensures that the cacao used is produced by companies who value their product and their people.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not encouraging a dark chocolate only diet. Nice idea, but no. In addition, you would need to appropriately modify your diet, medication or exercise when changing your food choices.But like everything else, moderation and education is key.

You can comb the aisles of your grocery store and even visit your smaller farmers markets and meet the people who are handcrafting their own chocolate supply. A small amount, about 1 ounce per day 4-5 times per week is all you need for your daily dose. If you are on diet restrictions, be sure to talk to your doctor or nutritionist about how you might incorporate dark chocolate into your diet.  Who knew that living with diabetes could be such a sweet adventure?!

And if you’d like, try one of these delicious treats from Healthy Meals Supreme:

  • High Protein Double Dark Chocolate Muffins
  • Awesome Dark Chocolate High Protein Fudge Brownies

* Always check with your doctor or healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.

 

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