Type 2 diabetes reveals one of two important characteristics about a person’s body: that their pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the cells are resistant to the insulin it does produce. Both have the same harmful effect – blood sugar levels are left to bulldoze their way through the body, damaging blood vessels in the process. Insulin is a hormone that moderates blood sugar so it is important to find ways of improving insulin secretion and response.
Additionally, a review of human studies showed that eating flavanol-rich dark chocolate or cocoa can reduce insulin sensitivity, improve blood sugar control and reduce inflammation in diabetic and non-diabetic people.
What’s more, some studies have shown that a higher intake of flavanols, including those from cocoa, can result in a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
One key caveat
“It has to be 100 percent unsweetened cocoa or cocoa powder,” said Avigdor Arad, PhD, an instructor of medicine, endocrinology, diabetes and bone disease at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
As Arad explains, unsweetened cocoa powder contains very little sugar and is mostly made up of fibre.
Furthermore, unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder is also very low on the glycemic index (GI).
The GI is a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or quickly they cause increases in blood sugar levels.
Foods that rank high on the GI cause rapid blood sugar spikes, while those low on the GI, such as unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder, keep blood sugar levels stable.
Other foods that are low on the GI include apples, Greek yogurt and peanuts, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Type 2 diabetes – what to look for
Type 2 diabetes often goes undetected because the symptoms are often subtle or non-existent in the initial stages.
If you experience symptoms, the most common include:
- Urinating more than usual, particularly at night
- Feeling thirsty all the time
- Feeling very tired
- Losing weight without trying to
- Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
- Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
- Blurred vision