By Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, FAND
February is American Heart month and also a time when chocolate is very popular due to the Valentine’s Day holiday. Many of my clients are craving sweets and often feel guilty if they indulge. During our conversations, they are pleasantly surprised when they hear the good news that they can manage their blood sugars and enjoy chocolate.
Chocolate when enjoyed in moderation may help with boost our mood, reduce the risk for heart disease and lower blood pressure. While there are many varieties of chocolate in the market, most of the health benefits have been associated with dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate is lower in added sugars and there are some varieties in the market that have added fiber and protein to the chocolate
Dark chocolate, especially one that has 70% or higher cacao, contains flavanols, antioxidants, magnesium, potassium and iron. Magnesium plays a role in maintaining blood pressure and helps you feel calm and relaxed. Dark chocolate also contains polyphenols which may help lower LDL and increase HDL levels.
Dark chocolate is lower in added sugars and there are some varieties in the market that have added fiber and protein to the chocolate (this allows for a minimal blood sugar spike). The key is to be mindful of portions (1 oz), find a 70% or higher cacao product, and take the time to truly savor your treat.
Here are some fun ways to enjoy dark chocolate:
- A 1 oz piece of dark chocolate as a finishing touch to a meal as is or paired with some nuts.
- In a homemade trail mix. Mix a variety of nuts and seeds with some dark chocolate pieces.
- As a dip. Melt some dark chocolate and serve it with colorful berries for dessert or drizzle it over nuts.
- Enjoy it as a comforting cup of hot chocolate.
- In your coffee to make a delicious cup of mocha.
- A chocolate hummus dip. Blend canned beans or nut butter with dark chocolate and a little vanilla.
- In your oatmeal for a decadent tasting breakfast.
It is important to monitor blood sugar and customize food choices to better meet the individualized goals of your clients. Bottom line, chocolate can be part of a healthy eating plan for someone with diabetes and may also provide some additional health benefits.
ADCES Perspectives on Diabetes Care
The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists Perspectives on Diabetes Care covers diabetes, prediabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions. Not all views expressed reflect the official position of the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists.
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