Can You Eat Chocolate If You Have Diabetes?

You can eat chocolate if you have diabetes, as long as you keep a few things in mind.

People with diabetes are often advised to limit their consumption of sweets and treats to help manage their blood sugar levels. But a crucial component of a healthy eating pattern is that it's enjoyable so you can stick with it for the long haul—which means including the occasional treat is a smart move. That might lead you to wonder whether chocolate should be avoided by those with diabetes or if folks can, in fact, enjoy the beloved sweet once in a while.

Pictured Recipe: Peppermint Chocolate Tart

Considering that approximately 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, and at the same time, over 50% of Americans report chocolate cravings, it is safe to assume that many people with diabetes would happily enjoy a piece of chocolate when given the opportunity. Yet, things like added sugars and additions like caramel, nuts and other extras can make it feel confusing to add in these popular treats in a way that aligns with your nutritional goals.

If you have diabetes and you want to know if chocolate can have a place in your diet, read on to find out all of the details.

How Chocolate Affects Your Blood Sugar

Chocolates are made with cocoa, cocoa butter, added sugar and milk or dairy solids, so eating this food may cause your blood sugars to elevate more quickly than foods with more fiber and protein or less added sugar.

When people with diabetes consume sugar, their bodies have challenges absorbing large quantities of the simple carb, resulting in higher-than-desired blood sugar levels. This can be due to a person's pancreas not producing insulin (which is the case with type 1 diabetes) or due to the cells not responding to insulin doing its job (which is the case with type 2 diabetes). In both cases, too much sugar can stay in the bloodstream. Over time, this excessive blood sugar can be linked to health concerns like heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease.

But since sugar isn't the only ingredient found in chocolate, as long as your portion size is mindful and you are opting for the best chocolate choices, your blood sugars may be A-OK after enjoying it.

"Believe it or not, chocolate is considered a low-glycemic food," Mary Ellen Phipps, M.P.H., RDN, LD, author of The Easy Diabetes Desserts Cookbook, tells EatingWell. Foods that have a lower glycemic index tend to result in a lower blood sugar increase than those that have a high glycemic index.

Phipps attributes this to the fat and fiber that is found in certain varieties of chocolate. "Exactly how much chocolate can raise your blood sugar depends on the type of chocolate, how much sugar is in it, and what other foods you're eating along with it," she explains.

Chocolate Nutrition

When you bite into a piece of chocolate, you are getting so much more than added sugar. This confection actually provides some impressive nutrition, especially if you are opting for a dark (or higher cocoa) variety.

"Most of the health benefits we see attributed to chocolate are for varieties that offer 70 to 85% cocoa, which is considered to be a 'dark chocolate','" Phipps explains. "These types of chocolate typically contain less [added] sugar and more fiber which is great for promoting stable blood sugars. They're also higher in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants."

Cocoa is noteworthy because it contains polyphenols, or plant compounds, that can benefit human health. In fact, cocoa beans are one of the best-known sources of dietary polyphenols. Cocoa also contains proteins, caffeine and various minerals, including potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc and magnesium.

But while dark chocolate may be a "better-for-you" choice because of the higher cocoa content and fewer added sugars, all chocolates can provide some nutritional benefits. But it is important to understand the slight differences that each variety offers to help navigate your own chocolate choices.

a recipe photo of the Peppermint Chocolate Tart
Brie Passano

White Chocolate

Despite having the name chocolate in its title, white chocolate is free from any cocoa solids. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, milk and sugar with no cocoa solids.

One ounce of white chocolate contains about:

  • 160 calories
  • 2g protein
  • 10g fat
  • 18g carbohydrate
  • 18g sugar
  • 0g fiber
  • 60mg calcium (6% Daily Value)
  • 0.08mg iron (0% DV)
  • 86mg potassium (3% DV)

Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate has between 35% to 55% cocoa mass, which is more than what is found in white chocolate but less than that of dark chocolate. Milk chocolate is typically made with cocoa butter, sugar, milk powder, lecithin and cocoa.

One ounce of milk chocolate contains:

  • 152 calories
  • 2g protein
  • 8g fat
  • 17g carbohydrates
  • 15g sugar
  • 1g fiber
  • 53mg calcium (5% DV)
  • 0.7mg iron (4% DV)
  • 104mg potassium (3% DV)

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is a form of chocolate containing cocoa solids, cocoa butter and added sugar, without the milk or butter found in milk chocolate.

One ounce of dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa) contains:

  • 170 calories
  • 2g protein
  • 12g fat
  • 13g carbohydrates
  • 7g sugar
  • 3g fiber
  • 20mg calcium (2% DV)
  • 3.4mg iron (19% DV)
  • 203mg potassium (6% DV)

Benefits of Eating Chocolate

Eating chocolate can do more than just satisfy a sweet tooth. Dark chocolate consumption is linked to some pretty impressive health benefits, thanks to its high percentages of cocoa, flavonoids and theobromine and low added sugar content.

Unfortunately for white and milk chocolate lovers, chocolate varieties with less cocoa may not provide the same benefits.

Here are some benefits that people may experience if they include dark chocolate in their diet.

You May Have Better Heart Health

People with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke than those who don't have diabetes. And eating dark chocolate may offer unique heart-health benefits, mainly thanks to its polyphenol content. Polyphenols play a role in generating nitric oxide, a molecule that promotes healthy blood flow, which can result in lower blood pressure and lower heart disease risk.

In one 2019 study in Nutrition evaluating young and healthy adults, a daily intake of 20 grams (about 3/4 ounce) of 90%-cocoa chocolate for a 30-day period improved vascular function. These findings highlight how including high-cocoa chocolate can have a positive effect on heart health.

You May Have Better Blood Glucose Control

While eating chocolate won't be a magic bullet that results in ideal blood glucose levels, including it as a part of a healthy diet may help improve blood glucose control, according to research.

Cocoa might help improve glucose control by slowing carbohydrate digestion and absorption in the gut. Plus, some evidence suggests that cocoa may improve insulin sensitivity.

One 2021 study in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies that evaluated females with diabetes found that dark chocolate consumption and consistent Pilates practice were linked to reduced fasting blood glucose.

Choosing the Best Chocolate for Diabetes

Chocolate and a diabetes-friendly eating pattern can go hand-in-hand with a little know-how. Here are some tips on how to choose the best chocolate for diabetes.

What to Look For

Since most of the health benefits attributed to chocolate are linked to its cocoa content, choosing varieties with a higher cocoa percentage is a good way to maximize the potential benefits.

And if you really want to limit your added sugar intake when you are eating chocolate, "You can choose chocolate sweetened with nonnutritive sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, erythritol or inulin, all of which won't raise your blood sugar the way other sweeteners will," Kelsey Kunik, RD, a registered dietitian and nutrition advisor for Fin vs Fin, tells EatingWell. (Check out our guide to sugar substitutes to better understand what may be the best fit for you.)

Choosing chocolate that has protein-rich mix-ins, like nuts, can be a great choice for people with diabetes. The protein and healthy fats in the nuts can help slow down the absorption of the added sugar in the chocolate, and can help it be more filling.

What to Limit

Limiting high-added-sugar chocolate additions, like caramel, is a wise choice for blood glucose management. Large quantities of added sugar can contribute to high blood sugars and diabetes complications over time.

Cocoa processed with alkali, or Dutched cocoa, tends to have fewer beneficial plant compounds. Because of this, it is best to opt for chocolate that is not made with cocoa processed in this way.

Finally, limiting chocolate that doesn't have a high cocoa content, like white or milk chocolate, is important. And remember, white chocolate is cocoa-free, so any cocoa-related health benefits may not apply.

Tips to Include Chocolate in a Healthy Diabetes-Appropriate Diet

Having diabetes doesn't mean that you have to go chocolate-free for the rest of your life. While it is not recommended to eat a movie-theater-size candy bar every day, there are several more nutritious (and still delicious) ways to include chocolate in your eating pattern:

  • Savoring an ounce of dark chocolate after a meal
  • Dipping fresh berries in melted dark chocolate
  • Enjoying a Dark Chocolate Hummus as a snack
  • Having a quick and easy Mug Brownie when you need something sweet

When you are picking your chocolate, opt for a dark variety with at least 70% cocoa content, stick to a mindful portion size (1 to 2 ounces), and try to enjoy it close to a mealtime or with a protein-rich snack to help support healthy blood sugar levels.

The Bottom Line

People with diabetes can absolutely include chocolate in their diet and still experience positive health outcomes. Enjoying a dark chocolate square after dinner or biting into a dark-chocolate-covered strawberry around Valentine's Day is something you should do if you enjoy it.

Along with following a diabetes-friendly diet, exercising according to your doctor's recommendations and managing stress, having chocolate occasionally is something that is not only enjoyable, but also may offer some pretty noteworthy health benefits!

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles