1 December 2006

Low GI Food of the Month

The real deal on chocolate
With Christmas and the holiday season upon us, GI News asked dietitian Alan Barclay for some tips what to do about chocolate.
‘If eaten in moderation, most people with diabetes or pre-diabetes can enjoy an occasional chocolate in a well balanced diet. In fact, there is increasing scientific evidence that a little bit of chocolate each day may do you good,’ he says.


Chocolate and your blood glucose
Although most chocolates have a relatively high sugar content, they don’t have a big impact on your blood glucose levels. In fact the average GI is around 45 because their high fat content slows the rate that the sugars are released from the stomach into the intestine, and absorbed into the blood. So, people with diabetes don’t need to eat low, or reduced-sugar chocolates to avoid high blood glucose levels. However, alternatively sweetened chocolates usually do have fewer kilojoules – a big advantage if you are trying to lose weight.

Chocolate and your weight
Most chocolates are 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. If you are overweight, buy quality chocolate and take care not to eat too much. Keep it for that occasional treat.

Chocolate and your blood fats
Chocolate is 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.

Chocolate and antioxidants
Chocolate is one of nature’s richest sources of a powerful group of antioxidants known as flavonoids, 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.

Chilli chocolate black beans
This recipe for ‘mole poblano de laraotas negras’ is from Ian Hemphill’s The Spice & Herb Bible (Robert Rose). You need a good quality dark chocolate – one with 70% cocoa solids. If you use dried black beans, you first need to soak them overnight and cook them for about an hour.

Serves 6
Preparation time 10–15 minutes; Cooking time 45 minutes


500 g black beans, cooked and drained (or 2 x 400 g/14 oz cans black beans rinsed and drained)
1 chipotle chilli
2 pasilla chillies
2 cascabel chillies
1 red (Spanish) onion, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon quills
100 g (3½ oz) ground almonds
1 tablespoon dried oregano
50 g (1¾ oz) 70% chocolate, broken into pieces
1 teaspoon salt (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 170ºC (325ºF). Roast chillies in the oven for 5 minutes then soak them in 2 cups (500 ml) of boiling water.

  • In a large pan, toast the allspice, cloves and cinnamon for 1 minute, or until their fragrance is released. Add the onions, garlic, almonds and oregano and stir until combined. Strain the chilli soaking water into the saucepan. Deseed and finely chop the chillies and add to the pan. Add the beans, chocolate and salt if you are using it and simmer gently for 45 minutes, adding more liquid if necessary.

  • Serve with a low GI rice or simply spoon into a warm tortilla and eat immediately.
Nutritional analysis per serve
Energy 1056 kJ/251 Cal; fat 12 g (saturated 2 g); fibre 7 g; protein 11 g; carbohydrate 25 g; low GI