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Can I have chocolate if I’m on the keto diet?

Maybe you’ve put on some kilos since the start of the movement control order (MCO) in March (2020), especially during the earlier more restrictive period, and you’re trying to lose them with a diet.

Today, we’ll take a look at a currently popular diet – the keto diet – and zero in on whether or not you can eat chocolate while on this diet.

I’ll give you the good news upfront: yes, you can indeed eat chocolate while on the keto diet!

While this diet does require you to cut out many of your likely favourite foods, snacks and desserts, dark chocolate is one guilty pleasure that’s still allowed.

But how does dark chocolate pass the keto diet’s restrictive standards?

And what sort of dark chocolate should you be looking out for?

Reducing the sugar

Compared to milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains a higher concentration of cocoa. This is oftentimes also an indication that the chocolate contains less sugar.

That is why dark chocolate usually tastes bitter, compared to the sweet and creamy flavour of milk chocolate.

If you eat a bar of milk chocolate, your efforts at weight loss will be voided, so do turn your chocolate bar over and check the nutrition label.

No matter how strong your craving, put it down if it doesn’t fit into your keto diet. Most milk chocolate contains high levels of processed sugar and little health benefit.

Eating sugar is basically the equivalent of eating carbohydrates. That sugar is going to be converted into glucose and will throw your body out of ketosis.

Indeed, processed sugar in general is not good for your body and should be avoided. To qualify as dark chocolate, a product has to contain a minimum of 50% cocoa solids (which can go up to 90%), whereas milk chocolate only comprises 10% to 50% cocoa solids.

With its higher percentage of cocoa solids, dark chocolate is inherently much richer in a plant-derived substance called flavanols, which are believed to help protect the heart.

This means that not only is dark chocolate a suitable snack to have while on the keto diet, but it’s also a great snack – in moderation – to promote heart health.

In order to be keto-friendly, dark chocolate has to be low in sugar content as well. The key is to choose dark chocolate varieties with at least 70% cocoa solids in order to consume less sugar and the most flavanols.

Craving for chocolate

The downside to diets is that it can leave us lacking in certain nutrients. When our body does not have enough of something, we end up with cravings.

If you crave chocolate, then you might be in need of more magnesium. Dark chocolate is one of the best ways to get magnesium into your body as it contains up to 176g of magnesium per 100g serving.

Magnesium deficiency, by the way, is a real and current problem. Humans used to get magnesium from plants and vegetables due to the soil they were grown in.

But certain processing methods that are commonly used, have led to a decrease in magnesium in soil, and thus, in our diet.

Magnesium also comes from our drinking water, but as we now frequently filter our water to get rid of the negative bacteria and add-ins, we also filter out the valuable magnesium content.

Because of this, most humans have a magnesium deficiency. Some symptoms of magnesium deficiency include fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting and weakness. As the deficiency gets more severe, these symptoms will increase.

Symptoms of severe magnesium deficiency include depression, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms and coronary spasms.

Keeping up a diet or changing your way of thinking about food, and cultivating an overall healthy lifestyle, can often end up being stressful. This also leads to cravings for comfort food like chocolate.

Eating chocolate raises your happiness level and helps you to deal with stress as it releases dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy.

And if you feel happy when you eat chocolate, it’s no wonder that you find yourself craving it when you’re stressed!

In conclusion, let’s review why dark chocolate is beneficial to our health:

  • It’s keto diet friendly
  • It makes you happy by releasing dopamines
  • It is rich in magnesium
  • It reduces stress.

By Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar
Published in Star Newspaper, 19 Oct 2020