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World Chocolate Day 2021: Are Chocolates Good For People With Diabetes?

On 7 July every year, World Chocolate Day is celebrated worldwide since 2009. It is believed that it was on this day in the year 1550 when chocolates were first brought to Europe. Since the 16th Century, chocolates became the favourite treat of many households in Europe and the flavour of foods like cakes, desserts, toppings, ice creams and many more.

Chocolates are not only flavourful but are nutritious and healthy as well. The high percentage of flavonoids in chocolates is responsible for their potent antioxidant effect with multiple health-promoting benefits, including the prevention and management of diabetes.

As we are aware that dietary changes can majorly influence the progression or degradation of diabetes, consumption of this antioxidant-rich food can help in the management of diabetes to a large extent. But, how? Take a look at the association between chocolates and diabetes.

Nutrition In Chocolates

Cocoa, the primary ingredient in chocolates, contains around 33 per cent of oleic acid, 33 per cent of stearic acid and 25 per cent of palmitic acid.

Flavonoids are a major polyphenolic compound found in cocoa beans. Flavonols (a class of flavonoids) in cocoa include quercetin, isoquercetin and quercetin while flavanols (another class of flavonoids) include epicatechin and catechin, and procyanidins. [1]

Some of the vital minerals in cocoa include iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, potassium, copper and phosphorus; vitamins like B1, B2 and B3, along with nitrogenous compounds like proteins, caffeine and theobromine. [2]

Why Are Dark Chocolates Nutritious Compared To Other Chocolate Types?

The abundance of polyphenols in unprocessed cocoa beans brings out their bitterness which is not pleasant to taste. Though many chocolate manufacturers have developed techniques to eliminate the unpalatable taste of cocoa, there is a risk of a decrease in their polyphenol content by up to 10-fold. Also, the addition of ingredients like sugar and emulsifiers to chocolates makes them unhealthy.

Dark chocolates, though a little bitter in taste, is known to have vast benefits compared to other chocolates such as milk chocolate. This is because dark chocolates contain high amounts of raw and unprocessed cocoa, meaning the highest percentage of phenolic compounds. [3]

With less processing, the phenolic content in dark chocolates remains intact. Also, they are low in sugar which makes them more demanding.

Chocolates And Diabetes

Some of the reasons why chocolates could be good for diabetics or pre-diabetics include:

1. Rich in fibre

Cocoa, which is found in maximum quantity in chocolates, is known to be high in fibre which may help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body and increase good cholesterol (HDL). [4] A 100-kcal of dark chocolate contains 1.7 g of fibre, white chocolate 0.6 g and semisweet chocolate 1.2 g. These fibres are mainly insoluble and thus, their consumption is linked to the reduced risk of diabetes. [5]

2. Rich in minerals

The major minerals in cocoa include magnesium, copper, iron and potassium. Magnesium is responsible for the proper functioning of the heart; copper for glucose metabolism and reducing inflammation; iron for preventing insulin resistance and functioning of pancreatic cells, and potassium for protection against hypertension. All these play a vital role in the management of diabetes and related complications such as heart disease. [1]

3. Rich in polyphenols

As aforementioned, cocoa in chocolates contains an abundance of polyphenolic compounds, especially flavonoids. This is responsible for the antioxidant capacity of chocolates that may help reduce damage to the beta cells and improve the production and functioning of insulin. These flavonoids also have cardioprotective effects against glucose-induced heart conditions and help boost immunity in diabetics. [6]

4. Lower cholesterol

Chocolates contain both healthy (monounsaturated fatty acids) and unhealthy fats (saturated fatty acids). The unhealthy fatty acids in chocolates include stearic and palmitic acid which are known to elevate cholesterol levels. Though stearic acid is an unhealthy fat, it is not believed to be non-atherogenic, its consumption does not tend to form plaque in arteries. To mention, stearic acid accounts for one-third of cocoa. [7]

5. Lower inflammation

Inflammation is considered to be the primary cause of diabetes and the risk of heart diseases in diabetics. A study has shown that chocolates, especially dark chocolates have a great effect on inflammatory markers and may lower them to a great extent. More studies are needed on the dosage and effect of prolonged chocolate consumption in people with diabetes. [8]

Negative Effects Of Chocolates In Diabetes

Though chocolates with more cocoa and less sugar are considered good for people with diabetes, excess consumption of chocolates can cause certain adverse effects such as:

  • Weight gain [9]
  • Constipation
  • Sleeplessness
  • Nervousness

To Conclude

Though chocolates are a healthy choice for people with diabetes, they should be restricted to a few squares to prevent the intake of sugar which is added to them. If you are a diabetic with weight problems, it is better to completely avoid them. Also, it is always good to consult a medical expert on how to include chocolates in your diabetes meal plan.

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