Why Does Chocolate Have a Low GI

If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, you don’t need to eat low, or reduced-sugar chocolate to avoid high blood glucose levels.

By: Professor Jennie Brand-Miller

Although most chocolate has a relatively high added sugar content, it doesn’t have a big impact on your blood glucose levels. In fact, the average GI is around 45 because the high fat content slows the rate that the sugars are released from the stomach into the intestine, and absorbed into the blood. If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, you don’t need to eat low, or reduced-sugar chocolate to avoid high blood glucose levels. Two squares of Lindt chocolate (20 grams) will provide around 100 calories (420kJ), 11g of carbohydrate (mostly sugars) and the glycemic load will be just 5. Most of the fat in chocolate is in a form that does not cause harm.

Interestingly, the recent analysis of what Australians are eating, indicates that we’re drinking less sugar-sweetened beverages, but eating more confectionery (including chocolate, muesli and nut bars) and more calories in the form of alcoholic beverages. Indeed, Dr Manny Noakes’ recent paper Changes in Food Intake in Australia: Comparing the 1995 and 2011 National Nutrition Survey Results Disaggregated into Basic Foods found that one of the biggest changes in the Australian diet over that period is the amount of chocolate we are eating – up 84%.

We have looked at chocolate a few times in GI News over the years. Dr Alan Barclay reminds us that chocolate is:

• Energy dense – you get a lot of kilojoules (calories) in a little piece. This is good if you are trying to gain weight, travel long-distances with limited storage space, or participate in an endurance sport where it is an advantage to be able to carry around a concentrated and highly palatable source of carbohydrate and energy. But it is obviously not good if you are trying to lose weight.

• High in total and saturated fats. In high quality chocolates, cocoa butter is the main source of fat. This is important, because cocoa butter is high in a particular kind of saturated fat called stearic acid. Stearic acid raises the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol the least of the saturated fats. It also raises the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, so the net effect on your total blood cholesterol levels is not too bad at all. However, the amount of cocoa butter used in chocolate does vary and along with it the amount of stearic acid. This information is not usually stated on the chocolate wrapper. As a very rough guide, the better quality more expensive chocolates generally have more cocoa butter and are a better choice.

• Rich in flavonoids – one of nature’s powerful antioxidants, along with green and black tea, red wine, certain fruits (berries, black grapes, plums, apples) and vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, cabbage, russet and sweet potatoes). It’s believed that these antioxidants may benefit people with diabetes or pre-diabetes by helping to prevent cholesterol sticking to the walls of blood vessels, relaxing major blood vessels and thereby decreasing blood pressure, and maybe even reducing the ability of the blood to form too many clots. A row of dark chocolate (28 g) provides about the same amount of these antioxidants as half a cup of black tea or a glass of red wine. Milk chocolate has only one-third as much antioxidants as dark chocolate, and white chocolate has none at all.
 
Bottom line: If you eat healthily and you’re up and about (i.e. physically active), a little chocolate treat goes a long way.

About the Author:
Professor Jennie Brand-Miller (AM, PhD, FAIFST, FNSA, MAICD) is an internationally recognised authority on carbohydrates and the glycemic index with over 250 scientific publications. She holds a Personal Chair in Human Nutrition in the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders and Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. She is the co-author of many books for the consumer on the glycemic index and health.

 

Article courtesly of GI News

Glycemic Index Foundation

 

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