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Perhaps one day during a checkup, I will write you a prescription for chocolate. It’s possible. Recent research shows that a moderate intake of chocolate on a daily basis can reduce the risk of diabetes.

Insulin and diabetes

When we consume food, our body produces a hormone called insulin which is made in the pancreas. Insulin helps cells absorb glucose from blood. Your blood vessels resemble highways. High glucose density in the blood is as harmful as traffic congestion. Cells lie around blood vessels, and the glucose is supposed to be absorbed into these cells. If glucose is unable to penetrate cells, it remains in your blood. There is a “key” for glucose to enter your cells and that key is insulin. Diabetes is formed in associated with insulin.

Diabetes is classified into two types: Type I diabetes and Type II diabetes. Type I diabetes means no insulin, so glucose remains in the blood and triggers various complications. The elderly are prone to insulin resistance. This means the insulin comes to ‘unlock’ blood cells so the glucose can enter the cells, but the lock is worn away and unable to ‘unlock,’ creating a glucose build up. Diabetes means that your blood sugar level is high.

Diabetes and chocolate

Many assume that those with diabetes must refrain from eating chocolate. Many Vietnamese even think that a high consumption of chocolate will cause diabetes. This is not accurate. Chocolate is not banned, but we should not consume sugar-filled chocolate. Most of the chocolate on the market has a high sugar level.

Where is chocolate from?

Recent research in the UK, published in the British Journal of Nutrition indicated those who consumed a moderate amount of dark chocolate on a daily basis experienced health benefits. Dark chocolate contains the highest cocoa level, synonymous with highest level of antioxidants (particularly flavonoids which are molecules capable of preventing some forms of cell damage). The research group also found that participants who sensibly consumed 20g of chocolate on a daily basis had their insulin resistance reduced. How should we properly understand chocolate? What is chocolate? Where is it from?

Chocolate comes from the cocoa tree. The species originated in Central America and South America. Local South Americans called it Xocolat. When it comes to processing, one should mention a distinct feature of cocoa. The berries are big and range from red to gold. Cocoa berries grow from the tree roots rather than their branches. Their seeds are very bitter and wrapped in a mucus layer. To process chocolate, the cocoa must go through fermentation. It’s also a very special process for the development of mankind. A majority of foods consumed by the humans are thanks in 30 to 40 per cent to fermentation. Fermentation is triggered by bacteria and yeast. Production of liquor, beer, fish sauce, fermented cabbage, kimchi and cheese­ – to name a few products –is through fermentation. Chocolate is no exception. Chocolate is a white lump that after the fermentation turns dark brown.

There are three types of chocolate; dark, milk and white. Dark chocolate is made of cocoa and a bit of cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla. Milk chocolate employs milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolate has no cocoa, but cocoa butter, and sugar. White chocolate and milk chocolate are filled with sugar.

If you have a sweet tooth, you should consume good chocolate, not bad. I think the two finest chocolate brands of the world come from Japan and Switzerland. Japan’s Royce Chocolate offers fresh and frozen milk, champagne, green tea and dark chocolate. The second established chocolatier that absolutely wins my heart is Laderach Chocolate from a Swiss city near Zurich. They produce fresh, newly baked chocolate and sell it within several weeks. Unfortunately, these two brands are not available in Canada, so load up on your vacations.

We should consume dark chocolate containing 75 per cent cocoa. It tastes quite bitter, but provides the health benefits discussed here. In short, have chocolate if you want, but take it in moderation. Those with high blood sugar level and subject to daily insulin injections should be cautious to avoid chocolate that contain sugar.

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Dr. Khoi Nguyen
Dr. Khoi holds a Science Degree from the University of Toronto and received his medical degree in 1988. He is currently seeing patients at his private family medicine practice. In 2010, he received the Canada’s Citizenship Award for his numerous contributions to the community. Bác sĩ Khôi tốt nghiệp ngành khoa học tại University of Toronto và tốt nghiệp y khoa năm 1988. Hiện nay ông đang làm việc tại phòng mạch tư chuyên về sức khỏe gia đình, và đã được vinh dự nhận giải thưởng Canada’s Citizenship Award năm 2010.