Desserts are often put on the back burner, if not completely removed, from the foods diabetics can add to their diet. Understandably, popular desserts like ice cream and cakes are notorious for having high sugar content. But one exception to the rule seems to have a favorable impact on diabetes: dark chocolates.
Eating dark chocolate can help manage diabetes without depriving yourself too much of its decadence. Dark chocolates may reduce blood sugar levels, improve insulin resistance, fight oxidative stress, and protect you from cardiovascular complications. In this article, we dive deeper into how good dark chocolates are for diabetes.
A 2022 study from Nutrition and Metabolic Insights presented the ability of sugar-free dark chocolates1 to lower blood glucose, as shown in its reduced glycemic index data.
In the clinical trials, those who consumed dark chocolate with sugar substitutes like stevia, inulin, and erythritol had decreased glucose levels than groups who ate conventional dark chocolate bars.
The hallmark of diabetes is elevated sugar or glucose in the blood due to problems in insulin production or usage. Hence, being able to control the rapid increase in sugar levels has a significant effect on the overall management of the condition.
With that, there’s a good chance that your doctor may approve the inclusion of dark chocolate in your diet if you have diabetes. Keep in mind, however, that other factors have to be considered regarding how much and how frequently you should eat dark chocolate.
According to a study in the Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, dark chocolates can help rectify insulin resistance2. This dark chocolate benefit can improve the prevention of the complete development of diabetes, especially among those with prediabetes.
Insulin is the hormone from the pancreas that regulates glucose metabolism and storage. In many cases of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance becomes the main culprit for the condition.
Insulin resistance develops when your body fails to use insulin to convert sugar to energy. Thus, the sugar remains in the blood without being processed.
Evidence from the study shows that flavonoids (phytochemical substances) from cocoa beans improve the functions of endothelial cells, which control the opening and closing of arteries. This mechanism impacts sugar metabolism and the body’s response to oxidative stress.
|Did You Know? Having an above-the-normal range of blood sugar does not necessarily equate to diabetes. If you have increased blood glucose but it’s not high enough to fall under diabetes, you may have prediabetes. You can get tested for prediabetes to understand your risk.
A pathway to reducing insulin resistance or sensitivity by consuming dark chocolates is the ability of the flavonoids to respond well to oxidative stress3. Flavanoids are essentially antioxidants that fight off oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress exacerbates diabetes as it disrupts the function of endothelial cells, which, in turn, causes problems in the blood vessels. This impact makes it extra challenging for blood to flow properly, causing further issues with your cardiovascular health.
In addition, high oxidative stress also promotes the development of diabetes for those already at risk. Thus, eating dark chocolate, especially with zero sugar, can help protect you from the metabolic condition.
Individuals with diabetes are at least twice as high risk4 of developing cardiovascular diseases than those without the disease. In this area, dark chocolates can act as a part of the preventive barriers for the complication.
The antioxidants present in dark chocolate can lessen chronic inflammation and further damage to cells which disrupts metabolic functions. It also has lower cholesterol, making it ideal for heart health.
Type 2 diabetes has been known to increase the likelihood of blood clotting easily5, as highlighted in a 2021 study published in the Antioxidants journal. The condition, called thrombosis, can trigger cardiovascular problems like stroke and even heart attack.
As dark chocolates contain flavanoids that respond to oxidative stress, they are ideal for helping prevent the risk of blood clot formation. Oxidative stress can speed up platelet activity, prompting clotting in the blood.
|Looking for other health tips to manage diabetes? Check out our free medically-approved guides:How To Lower Your A1c Level: 10 Tips to ConsiderBlood Glucose Test: What Is It For?Why Your Wound Is Healing Slower with Diabetes?
You can identify chocolates based on the proportion of cocoa and other ingredients. Dark chocolates are ideal for diabetics and typically contain 70% cocoa and substitute sweeteners for sugar. Commercial dark chocolates have 50% to 90% cocoa solids and butter blended with sugar. While it has cocoa in it, the addition of sugar makes it less ideal for those with diabetes.
Generally, you can consume not more than 25 grams of dark chocolate a day if you have diabetes. However, make sure that it has less or zero sugar to avoid any spikes in your blood glucose. Still, tolerance to dark chocolate can vary from person to person. It’s best to consult your doctor first to ensure you’re maintaining the most ideal diabetes diet for yourself.
White and milk chocolates typically contain more sugar than cocoa, which guarantees an increase in your blood sugar levels if consumed uncontrollably. Dark chocolates can also raise blood glucose if it has high amounts of sugar. A good point of reference when choosing chocolate if you have diabetes is its bitterness. The more bitter the chocolate is, the less sugar it has.
Without knowing its health benefits, dark chocolate and diabetes seem like an odd, unlikely pair. But as you have a better understanding of the wonders dark chocolate can bring to help manage diabetes, you can now include this beloved staple in your diabetes-friendly diet. Of course, ask your doctor first to fully maximize its benefits.
1 Oliveira B, Falkenhain K, Little JP. Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate Consumption Results in Lower Blood Glucose in Adults With Diabetes. Nutr Metab Insights. 2022 Feb 7;15:11786388221076962. doi: 10.1177/11786388221076962. PMID: 35153489; PMCID: PMC8832613.
2 Shah SR, Alweis R, Najim NI, Dharani AM, Jangda MA, Shahid M, Kazi AN, Shah SA. Use of dark chocolate for diabetic patients: a review of the literature 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.
3 Yang H, Jin X, Kei Lam CW, Yan SK. Oxidative stress and diabetes mellitus. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2011 Nov;49(11):1773-82. doi: 10.1515/CCLM.2011.250. Epub 2011 Aug 3. PMID: 21810068.
4 Editorial Staff (n.d.). Diabetes and Heart Disease. John Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved January 11, 2024, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/diabetes/diabetes-and-heart-disease
5 Vaidya AR, Wolska N, Vara D, Mailer RK, Schröder K, Pula G. Diabetes and Thrombosis: A Central Role for Vascular Oxidative Stress. Antioxidants (Basel). 2021 Apr 29;10(5):706. doi: 10.3390/antiox10050706. PMID: 33946846; PMCID: PMC8146432.