Dark Chocolate: The Surprising Way to Keep Diabetes at Bay

Diabetes Care|Mar.07, 2018

Are you the kind that feasts on dark chocolate when you're delirious with joy? Or do you reserve this comforting superfood for days when you're down in the dumps? Either way, if you're a chocoholic, it's time to rejoice. The latest dietary directives from nutrition and diabetes experts actually encourage indulging in this delectable snack because of its potential health benefits.

This news may seem too good to be true for us Indians — we consumed 228,000 tonnes worth of chocolate in 2016 alone — but we're in luck! Scientists have found that eating dark chocolate daily may have a positive impact on insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels — two key factors in the development of diabetes. But, before you begin incorporating chocolate into your meals, here's what you need to know.

The Link Between Dark Chocolate and Diabetes

The secret of how dark chocolate works against diabetes lies within its make-up. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols — naturally occurring compounds that have antioxidant properties, which protect the body from damage by harmful molecules. Polyphenols in dark chocolate may improve insulin sensitivity, or how well insulin works in the body. This, in turn, may help control blood sugar. Such improved insulin sensitivity may delay, or even prevent, the onset of diabetes — an important benefit here in India, where the number of people living with diabetes is expected to rise to over 100 million by 2030.

A recent study found that people who eat chocolate, including dark chocolate, at least once a week had a lower prevalence of diabetes and were at lower risk for diabetes four to five years later. The analysis of 908 non-diabetic people and 45 people with diabetes discovered that people who ate such chocolate less than once weekly were at twice the risk of diabetes versus those who ate it more than one day per week.

But what if you already have diabetes? There's no need to feel left out! There may be some benefits of eating dark chocolate for you, too. Scientists analysed people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes who consumed 25 grams of either dark or white chocolate for eight weeks. Those who ate dark chocolate had lower blood pressure after eight weeks than those who ate white chocolate. The dark chocolate eaters also had decreased fasting blood sugar.

The Right Dark Chocolate for You

Are you ready to buy up your supermarket's inventory of dark chocolate? Know that not all chocolate is created equal. Remember, it's the polyphenol-rich dark chocolate that contains antioxidants, and the higher percentage of cocoa that yields health advantages.

So before you begin munching on that chocolate bar, read the nutrition facts to ensure you're getting the most from the treat. Experts recommend choosing a dark chocolate that has at least as much fibre as sugar. Also, check if the dark chocolate has been processed with alkali (this process makes cocoa less bitter, but it eliminates the health properties in the chocolate). Opt instead for one that hasn't been processed.

Enjoy Dark Chocolate in Moderation

All good things must be enjoyed in moderation. This is true for dark chocolate as well. If you eat too much of it, your blood sugar levels could fluctuate instead of being corralled. Commercial chocolate, in fact, may add fat and calories to the candy. And people managing diabetes shouldn't use chocolate as a way to boost low blood sugar, because the fat in chocolate will prevent your glucose from rising quickly. As always, consult a medical professional, such as a physician or registered dietitian, before modifying your diet or insulin use.

The bottom line? If you have diabetes, it's best to avoid food that's loaded with sugar, but, with smart glucose monitoring, treating yourself to a bite or two of dark chocolate as part of a balanced diet could provide some sweet health benefits.


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