Chocolate! Although millions love it, chocolate has always gotten a bad rap in the diabetes community.

But let’s look below the surface of the candy wrapper.

Chocolate actually begins as a humble bean, chock full of nutrients.

Yes, nutrients.

According to the nutrient database maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, chocolate contains vitamins A, B and E as well as the minerals copper, iron, manganese and zinc.

In addition, chocolate contains antioxidants, which protect cells, and tryptophan, which can raise serotonin levels to fight depression.

Who Are We Kidding?

But let’s be honest. We really don’t eat chocolate for its health benefits.

The sugar content alone- no matter how disguised (as dextrose, fructose or sucrose, for example)-raises blood glucose. And the high fat content can slow release of the glucose into the bloodstream.

Many people with diabetes, no matter how they do the math and track their treatment, report that eating chocolate raises their blood glucose several hours later. Obviously an excess of chocolate can get people with diabetes into trouble. If you eat it, limiting the quantity to at most a couple of ounces, depending on the source, may be the smartest agenda.

Lower-Carbohydrate Bars

But what about those lowercarbohydrate chocolate bars that are flooding the market? Are they the right alternative?

Envision a yellow warning light.

These candies may be “sugar free,” but they do contain hidden carbohydrates in the form of sugar alcohols, not to mention ample calories.

New and different sugar alcohols are added to new lower-carb products regularly. Studies show that individuals may respond differently to these additives-sugar alcohols can raise blood glucose somewhat in certain individuals, while others see no effect at all. So proceed slowly, and be sure to test to see how you respond.

Erythritol, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol are a few of the sugar alcohols to look for.

*Use the accompanying charts (on pages 60 and 61) to help you answer questions you might have about chocolate (regular or lower-carb). Armed with a little knowledge, you and your chocolate can walk hand in mouth into the sunset.

Dianne De Mink has had type 1 diabetes for nearly 40 years. She is currently working on a book on diet and nutrition.

*The chart accompanying this article is not reproduced on this website due to cost and maintenance considerations. If you wish to obtain a copy of this chart, please call Diabetes Health at 1-800-488-8468, x109.

Chocoholics, Take Heed

To safely indulge in chocolate, ask yourself:

  • How much fat does this product contain? What kind of fat?
  • Does it contain ingredients (sugar, corn syrup, fiber, sugar alcohols, high fats) that will affect my treatment regimen?
  • How much sugar alcohol will my body tolerate without problems?
  • Have I considered my lipid levels and/or weight issues?
  • Did I accurately substitute the carbohydrate and fat as part of my meal plan?

Dark Chocolate-Good For You?

Could this be for real?

Could eating chocolate provide positive health benefits?

German researchers think so.

A study involving 13 people with mild high blood pressure (153/84 mmHg) found that eating dark chocolate lowers your blood pressure.

Participants ate three-ounce chocolate bars (90 to 100 grams) every day for two weeks. Half ate white chocolate, and the other half ate dark chocolate.

The dark chocolate group showed average drops of five points in systolic blood pressure and two points in diastolic pressure.

Among those who ate white chocolate, blood pressure did not change.

According to the August 27, 2003, issue of the Chicago Sun-Times, “The study received no industry funding-the researchers bought the chocolate themselves from the supermarket.”

-Journal of the American Medical Association, August 27, 2003

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