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Diabetes Health Center

The Dieter’s (and Diabetic Person's) Guide to Buying Chocolate

The 'Recipe Doctor' taste-tests sugar-free chocolate.
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How Do They Make Sugar-Free Chocolate That Tastes Great? continued...

This type of sugar replacer (which includes sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, and isomalt, in addition to maltitol) is particularly helpful to people with diabetes because only a portion of it is digested and absorbed. And the part that is absorbed through the intestinal tract is absorbed slowly, so there is little rise in blood sugar and little need for insulin.

Sound too good to be true? Well, there are a couple of downsides to sugar-free chocolate:

  • Potential intestinal discomfort. Most packages of sugar-free chocolate carry a label that reads" "Excessive consumption may cause a laxative effect." This "laxative effect" is because of the part of the sugar alcohol that isn't digested or absorbed. It goes through the intestinal tract and starts to ferment and attract water. Discomfort ranging from gas to diarrhea can result, depending on the amount consumed and each person's individual intestinal tract. Consider this a little extra motivation to eat these chocolates in small portions! The American Dietetic Association advises that more than 50 grams of sorbitol or 20 grams of mannitol per day can cause diarrhea. You can find out how much sugar alcohol is in each sugar-free chocolate product by reading the nutrition information label.
  • Sugar-free doesn't mean saturated-fat free, or calorie-free. Chocolate tastes so good because of two things: the sweet ingredient (maltitol, in the case of sugar-free chocolate), and cocoa butter. And cocoa butter is rich in saturated fat. For example, five pieces of Russell Stover Sugar Free Chocolate Candy Miniatures add up to 190 calories, 14 grams of total fat, and 9 grams of saturated fat.

Best-Tasting Sugar-Free Chocolates

There were definitely some brands that most of my tasters really liked and would buy again (myself included). Here are four winners:

  • Galler Belgian Royal (available at Whole Foods Markets). The taste and texture are great! This brand fooled me into thinking it was regular chocolate. I would definitely buy it again and again. It has that smooth, creamy Swiss chocolate texture. Cost: About $5.99 for a 100-gram bar
  • Dove Sugar Free Rich Dark Chocolates with Chocolate Creme (it also comes in Raspberry Creme option). This has a nice, smooth texture and rich dark chocolate taste. Cost: $3.29 for a 96-gram bag
  • Yamate Chocolatier Sugar Free Milk Chocolate (available at Whole Foods Markets). Creamy texture; rich flavor. Cost: $3.39 for an 85-gram bar
  • Weight Watchers Pecan Crowns (this does contain some sugar). The caramel texture is good -- thick, chewy, and satisfying. It tastes like regular, delicious turtle candy. Cost: $2.99 for an 85-gram bag

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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