Chocolate for Diabetics: Benefits, Drawbacks, and More

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Living with diabetes means that you’re constantly aware of your food and drink intake, and the impact of the foods you eat on your blood sugar levels.

Many people think that if you have diabetes, you can’t have sweets or chocolate — but in reality, that’s a myth. You can still have these foods in small amounts, but they need to be part of a larger healthy lifestyle and diet.

By choosing high-quality dark chocolate — 70 percent cocoa — you get a stronger chocolate taste, which can help you eat less. Check the labels for carbohydrate contents to help you adjust insulin levels, and you can enjoy a sweet treat.

Talk with your doctor about whether you can incorporate chocolate into your diet, in moderation.

In addition to satisfying a craving, there may be health benefits to eating chocolate, especially dark chocolate.

Potential benefits

A group of plant chemicals called flavonoids may help reduce insulin resistance and improve insulin sensitivity. Dark chocolate may also help reduce clotting in the blood.

Flavonoids in dark chocolate may also improve endothelial function, causing the reduced insulin resistance, and also reducing the risk of future cardiovascular problems.

The endothelium is a membrane that lines the heart and blood vessels. When there is endothelial dysfunction, there is a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Drawbacks

All chocolate is not the same — milk and white chocolate don’t have the same health benefits as dark chocolate. Eating foods like chocolate cake or chocolate chip cookies will not provide the benefits as, say, a small square of dark chocolate.

Eating too much chocolate can cause issues with blood sugar and weight gain.

When you have diabetes, eating a balanced diet is important. It is not only part of an overall healthy lifestyle, but it’s also part of your treatment plan. Along with regular physical activity, having a balanced, healthy diet can help keep your blood glucose level in the normal range and keep your weight stable.

A healthy weight can help control your blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of diabetes complications.

Diabetes can typically be controlled by a combination of:

  • monitoring what you eat and drink
  • regular physical activity
  • taking prescribed diabetes medications

A balanced diet includes:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • whole grains
  • lean protein
  • low-fat dairy

Include heart-healthy fats like:

  • olive oil
  • nuts and seeds
  • fish
  • avocado

Try to limit saturated and trans fats, processed grains like white rice, and high glycemic index foods.

When you really want chocolate or something chocolate-flavored, there are ways to make sweets and desserts healthier. Check out the Diabetes Food Hub from the American Diabetes Association for ideas. Turns out you can have your cake, and eat it, too!

Note: While many of these recipes are gluten-free, people with diabetes do not need to avoid gluten unless diagnosed with celiac disease.

Keeping your blood sugar level in target range is an important part of managing diabetes, and along with medication, diet and exercise, can help. All of these things work together to create optimum health and prevent complications from diabetes. Diet and exercise can help:

  • stabilize your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure
  • keep your weight in a healthy range or help you lose weight
  • prevent or delay complications from diabetes
  • give you more energy
  • improve blood flow
  • burn extra calories
  • improve your mood

Your diet may depend on your insulin or other diabetes medications, and your healthcare team can work with you on the best times to eat, your carbohydrate intake, and meal planning questions you might have.

It’s not easy making lifestyle changes, but you don’t have to do it alone. You don’t have to deprive yourself of chocolate or sweets, and your healthcare team can help you find a way to incorporate these foods into your diet in a healthy way.

If you’re struggling with eating chocolate or sweets in moderation or having difficulty controlling your weight or blood sugar, you might want to talk with a professional.

Ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian (RD) or diabetes care and education specialist (DCES) to create a plan for healthier eating.

You don’t have to completely deprive yourself of chocolate if you have diabetes, just consume it in moderation. Not all chocolate is the same, and dark chocolate has health benefits that other kinds don’t have.

Also, consider your lifestyle behaviors like diet and exercise before deciding to indulge. If you’re looking to incorporate chocolate into your diet, talk with your doctor about the best ways to do so.

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