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Dark Chocolate For Diabetics – Is It Really Good?

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Individuals with diabetes needs a well-balanced diet for leading a healthy life. Every element of the diet, including food composition, portion size, and timing, plays a significant role in regulating blood glucose levels.

Although diabetes mellitus, a common chronic disease in India, is incurable, one can manage it to a great extent with the proper diet. Certain dietary flavonoids have been identified as potential functional ingredients to treat diabetes. One such food is dark chocolate. Dark chocolates are a favourite of many people, providing a tasty and healthy snack.

Many people mistakenly believe that they cannot consume any sweet-tasting food once they are diagnosed with high blood sugar. However, dark chocolate is an exception due to its high concentration of minerals such as iron, magnesium, and zinc. Furthermore, dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids are antioxidants that can offer numerous health benefits.

This article looks into the impact of dark chocolate consumption on glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

What Is Dark Chocolate?

Dark chocolate is a variety of chocolate made with cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. It typically contains more cocoa solids and less sugar than milk chocolate, which gives it a richer, more intense flavour.

Dark chocolate is also known for its high levels of antioxidants, flavonoids, and other beneficial compounds that may reduce the risk of heart disease and improve cognitive function. 

Available in various cocoa percentages, dark chocolate can range from as low as 30% cocoa to as high as 100% cocoa—the higher percentage results in a stronger flavour and better nutritional value.

Studies show that dark chocolate’s strong taste can make you eat less and adjust insulin levels when consumed in moderate amounts.

The HealthifyMe Note 

Dark chocolate has a higher cocoa content and less sugar than milk chocolate, which benefits people with diabetes. Eating small amounts of dark chocolate can help satisfy one’s sweet tooth while preventing blood sugar spikes. Furthermore, dark chocolate has the added benefits of improving mood, protecting skin from the sun, and preserving brain function from inflammation.

Glycemic Index of Dark Chocolates

The glycemic index helps you to estimate the potential impact of food sources on blood sugar levels. It means you have to consume foods with a low GI score (55 or below) and avoid the ones with a higher value (70 and above).

Evidence has revealed that the GI score of dark chocolate is 23, which is very low compared to the GI score of milk chocolate, 42.

Dark chocolate’s low glycemic index score makes it safe for people with diabetes as it’s likely to cause only a slight and steady rise in blood glucose levels, unlike the sharp increase caused by high glycemic foods.

HealthifyMe Pro 2.0 helps you understand your body’s response and glucose levels to every food you consume throughout the day. Even if you don’t have diabetes, you should track your blood glucose level through the CGM device BIOS, an intelligent device for detecting blood sugar levels.

Experts will analyse the fluctuations and provide a diet plan to eliminate unfavourable blood sugar spikes, optimising your overall health.

Is Dark Chocolate Good for People With Diabetes?

Cocoa flavonoids affect insulin resistance by improving endothelial function, altering glucose metabolism, and reducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is possibly the root cause of insulin resistance, and the positive effects of cocoa on endothelial function support the idea that it may affect insulin sensitivity. 

Research has suggested that cocoa may assist in reducing metabolic syndrome’s insulin resistance and delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes. Additional studies have also suggested that cocoa may help decrease cardiovascular issues in diabetes patients.

Furthermore, research has found that dark chocolate’s predominant cocoa content induces the ability of cells to release insulin due to vasodilatory properties through endothelial function. 

Studies have also verified that dark chocolate is a powerhouse of rich antioxidants such as polyphenols and flavonoids, stimulating insulin production while reducing insulin resistance. It will assist the body cells in the proper output and effective utilisation of insulin. This will, in turn, naturally lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes.

Investigations even indicate that dark chocolate helps reduce bad cholesterol or LDL while enhancing HDL or good cholesterol. As a result, it decreases the risk of cardiovascular disorders, lowers blood pressure and optimises glucose metabolism. In addition, studies have reported that the antioxidant property of chocolate will prevent the free radicals responsible for ageing and various health ailments such as cancer.

Benefits of Dark Chocolate for Diabetes Patients

Dark chocolate is better for you than regular milk chocolate and other types of chocolate. That is because the right mix of ingredients and cocoa can provide essential nutrients and keep your energy levels up, helping you maintain a healthy weight and stable blood sugar levels.

Rich in Antioxidants

Flavanols and polyphenols are two critical phytochemicals that are predominantly present in dark chocolate. Their antioxidant properties block the action of free radicals on the cells and tissues, thereby preventing oxidative stress and related health issues like cancer.

Decrease Insulin Resistance

When the body stops reacting or using the insulin hormone, it will result in insulin resistance. This leads to abnormal blood glucose levels, which cause prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

A study has demonstrated that consuming dark chocolate will improve insulin resistance and endothelial function. Daily intake of the cocoa-filled snack will decrease the fasting blood sugar levels.

Promotes Heart Health

According to multiple studies, dark chocolates protect you against cardiovascular diseases when consumed at a controlled level. It also has rich antithrombotic and antihypertensive properties. In addition, it prevents issues in the blood clotting process and enables the free flow of blood.

Regulates Blood Pressure

The flavanols in dark chocolate stimulate the body cells to produce nitric oxide in the endothelium, which relaxes the blood vessels. As a result, it will increase the blood flow in the arteries and lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Chronic inflammation is the primary cause of several illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, arthritis and even certain types of cancer. Dark chocolate contains specific nutrients that tend to lessen the effect of inflammation.

Boost Brain Function

Experts believe that eating dark chocolate will improve brain function, including alertness and memory for a short period.

The flavonol content in dark chocolate will widen the blood vessels, allowing more oxygen to reach the brain. It is believed to improve the capacity of the brain to remodel itself in response to illness and damage to cells. 

Healthy Ways to Consume Dark Chocolate for Diabetes

Experts suggest you can consume dark chocolates 30-60 grams per day. Prefer buying dark chocolate with high cocoa content. 

  • Eat a small piece of dark chocolate as a post-meal (lunch or dinner) dessert or post-workout snack.
  • Check the food label content of the dark chocolate package even though the product is diabetic-friendly. It will help you to fulfil your sweet cravings without going more on adequate calories, carbs, saturated fat or sugar.
  • Add the grated dark chocolate to oatmeal, yoghurt and smoothies to relish the taste and reap the benefits. In addition, healthy meals with high protein content will slow digestion, making you feel satiated for a long time. For instance, research shows that combining chocolate with non-fat, plain yoghurt rich in probiotics and protein could be the best diabetes-friendly dessert.
  • You can add 1 to 2 tablespoons of naturally sourced cocoa powder daily into your morning shake to boost your heart health.

Potential Disadvantages of Excessive Dark Chocolate Consumption

  • Even though dark chocolate could be a decision to treat for diabetic people, excessive consumption might cause a sudden spike in blood glucose levels and result in weight gain.
  • Cocoa contains caffeine. Hence overconsumption of dark chocolate might induce frequent urination, sleeplessness, faster heartbeat and nervousness.
  • Eating dark chocolate with ingredients such as vegetable oil (palm or soy) and cocoa butter will make digestion difficult for people with diabetes.

Conclusion

Cocoa polyphenols have the potential to reduce insulin resistance, which thus lowers the risk of developing diabetes. In addition, cocoa may promote insulin production, induce pancreatic cell regeneration, have a hypoglycemic impact, and enhance glucose tolerance. 

The vasodilatory characteristics of cocoa can increase insulin sensitivity due to endothelial activity. Consequently, consistent consumption of dark chocolate has a more significant impact on insulin resistance than occasional consumption. However, large-scale randomised controlled trials should be conducted to evaluate the potential medical benefits of cocoa-containing diets for diabetes patients at a molecular level.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Which dark chocolate is best for diabetics?

A. If you have diabetes, you should choose standard dark chocolate bars with at least 70% or more cocoa content. A higher percentage of cocoa indicates a higher level of antioxidants and nutrients like calcium, copper, fibre, antioxidants, copper, and magnesium compared to dark chocolate with less cocoa content. In addition, as it has a stronger flavour and taste than milk chocolates, you are more likely to eat less, which is suitable for people with diabetes.

Q. How often should a diabetic eat dark chocolate?

A. If an individual follows a healthy lifestyle and has been following a nutritious diet based on their diabetic condition, then eating a small piece of (one ounce or 20-30 grams) dark chocolate daily is permissible. It will improve your blood flow and lower blood pressure and blood sugar. 

Q. Will dark chocolate raise blood sugar?

A. No, dark chocolates have polyphenols. Therefore it might control the blood sugar level by increasing insulin sensitivity. It may even delay or prevent the risk of diabetes in most people. However, when you consume excessive dark chocolate, its carb content will cause a sudden spike in blood sugar levels. 

Q. Can Type 2 diabetics eat chocolate?

A. Yes, individuals who have type 2 diabetes can eat dark chocolates as it has a very low glycemic index score of 23. The lower the GI, the lower the chances of higher blood sugar levels. Moreover, the flavonoid content in dark chocolate will lower the blood glucose level, reducing the risk of developing heart diseases and other diabetic-associated ailments.

The Supporting Sources

1. Shah SR, Alweis R, Najim NI, Dharani AM, Jangda MA, Shahid M, Kazi AN, Shah SA. Use of dark chocolate for diabetic patients: a literature review and current evidence. J Community Hosp Intern Med Perspect. 2017 Sep 19;7(4):218-221. doi: 10.1080/20009666.2017.1361293. PMID: 29181133; PMCID: PMC5699188.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5699188/

2. Magrone T, Russo MA, Jirillo E. Cocoa and Dark Chocolate Polyphenols: From Biology to Clinical Applications. Front Immunol. 2017 Jun 9;8:677. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00677. PMID: 28649251; PMCID: PMC5465250.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5465250/

3. Ramos S, Martín MA, Goya L. Effects of Cocoa Antioxidants in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Antioxidants (Basel). 2017 Oct 31;6(4):84. doi: 10.3390/antiox6040084. PMID: 29088075; PMCID: PMC5745494.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5745494/

4. Rostami A, Khalili M, Haghighat N, Eghtesadi S, Shidfar F, Heidari I, Ebrahimpour-Koujan S, Eghtesadi M. High-cocoa polyphenol-rich chocolate improves blood pressure in patients with diabetes and hypertension. ARYA Atheroscler. 2015 Jan;11(1):21-9. PMID: 26089927; PMCID: PMC4460349.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4460349/#:~:text=Cocoa%20has%20been%20claimed%20to,blood%20pressure%20among%20diabetic%20patients.

5. Muniyappa R, Hall G, Kolodziej TL, Karne RJ, Crandon SK, Quon MJ. Cocoa consumption for 2 wk enhances insulin-mediated vasodilatation without improving blood pressure or insulin resistance in essential hypertension. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Dec;88(6):1685-96. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26457. PMID: 19064532; PMCID: PMC2969165.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2969165/

6. Grassi D, Lippi C, Necozione S, Desideri G, Ferri C. Short-term administration of dark chocolate is followed by a significant increase in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood pressure in healthy persons. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Mar;81(3):611-4. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/81.3.611. PMID: 15755830.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15755830/

7. Mursu J, Voutilainen S, Nurmi T, Rissanen TH, Virtanen JK, Kaikkonen J, Nyyssönen K, Salonen JT. Dark chocolate consumption increases HDL cholesterol concentration, and chocolate fatty acids may inhibit lipid peroxidation in healthy humans. Free Radic Biol Med. 2004 Nov 1;37(9):1351-9. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2004.06.002. PMID: 15454274.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15454274/

8. Ramos S, Martín MA, Goya L. Effects of Cocoa Antioxidants in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Antioxidants (Basel). 2017 Oct 31;6(4):84. doi: 10.3390/antiox6040084. PMID: 29088075; PMCID: PMC5745494.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5745494/

9. Galleano M, Oteiza PI, Fraga CG. Cocoa, chocolate, and cardiovascular disease. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2009 Dec;54(6):483-90. Doi: 10.1097/FJC.0b013e3181b76787. PMID: 19701098; PMCID: PMC2797556.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2797556/

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