World Chocolate Day Special | Can you have dark chocolate if you're diabetic?

Dark chocolate
Photo: Shutterstock/New Africa

Are you the kind of person that feasts on chocolate when celebrating something? Or do you reserve this comforting superfood for days when you need something to light up your mood? Either way, if you're a chocoholic, it's time to celebrate World Chocolate Day with no guilt. Consuming limited amounts of dark chocolate may help improve blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, two important factors in the onset of diabetes, according to research.

"Recent dietary recommendations from experts in nutrition and diabetes actually suggest indulging in this delicious snack due to its potential health advantages. But before you start adding chocolate to your meals, here's what you need to know," says Dr. Irfan Shaikh, Head, of Medical & Scientific Affairs at Abbott's Nutrition business.

The link between dark chocolate and diabetes

Dark chocolate contains polyphenols – naturally occurring compounds that have antioxidant properties, which protect the body from damage by harmful molecules. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols that may enhance insulin sensitivity, or how effectively insulin functions in the body. In turn, this might support blood sugar management. This increased insulin sensitivity has the potential to delay or perhaps prevent the onset of diabetes.

How to pick the right one

• Pick the polyphenol-rich dark chocolate over others which contains antioxidants, and the higher percentage of cocoa that yields health advantages

• Read the nutrition facts to ensure you're getting the most from the chocolate

• Choose dark chocolate that has at least as much fibre as sugar

• Check if the dark chocolate has been processed with alkali (this process makes cocoa less bitter but eliminates the chocolate's health properties).

• Opt for a non-processed one

• Eat it in moderation. If you eat too much of it, your blood sugar levels could fluctuate instead of being corralled

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 occasionally to a bite or two of dark chocolate as part of a balanced diet could provide some sweet health benefits.


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