By now you’re probably aware of the many health benefits of dark chocolate. For a number of years doctors and nutrition experts have given the delicious treat a thumbs-up for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it seems every year there’s new research on how moderate consumption of the dark stuff can be beneficial to your health.
One of those benefits has to do with minimizing your diabetes risk. Researchers have found that moderate consumption of dark chocolate can improve the body’s processing of blood sugar, thanks to plant compounds such as flavonoids and cocoa that are found in dark chocolate.
A 2012 study carried out by Mee Young Hong, PhD, associate professor of exercise and nutritional sciences at San Diego State University specifically looked at the differences between white chocolate, which has no cocoa solids, and dark chocolate containing 70% cocoa content.
Among other benefits, the data she collected on dark chocolate blood sugar levels showed that the antioxidants contained in the dark variety helped the body use its insulin more efficiently, which in turn helped to lower the levels naturally.
She presented her findings at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego.
But before you go scarfing down a ton of chocolate for the sake of your health, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Dark Chocolate Blood Sugar Tips
First, you have to pick the right type of chocolate.
“It is a myth that all dark chocolate is good for you” says Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Sugar is often the first ingredient listed on many dark chocolate bars.”
She says instead of just picking a chocolate because it’s labeled “dark,” look for cocoa solids as the first ingredient, since those contain the desirable flavanols responsible for health protection.
“A good rule of thumb is to look for at least 70 percent cocoa solids” she says.
For those who are turned off by the slightly bitter taste, McDaniel assures these naysayers can train their taste buds to enjoy the less-sweet flavor over time.
Another really important thing to remember is that much of the research around dark chocolate stresses moderation.
Augusto Di Castelnuovo, PhD, in the department of epidemiology and prevention at the IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed in Italy, conducted a study that backed up the dark chocolate blood sugar reduction link. But one of the things he found was that the positive effects vanish when you overdo it, so he suggests to keep the serving to around 1.7 ounces per week.
Not sure how much 1.7 ounces is? There are a lot of chocolate bars available that come in this specific size. You can also buy a bar that’s portioned into squares, divide the number of ounces by the number of squares, and figure out how many ounces are in each one. Then break off the right amount and enjoy.
And, no matter how you portion out that rich chocolate, remember to really savor it.