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Lets Talk About Chocolate

That lucious, lovely, silky, creamy smooth taste……..

chocolate in mug
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Chocolate and I would be joined at the hip if I weren’t diabetic. Not just any chocolate though, as I’m not a true chocolate connoiseur. I like milky chocolate, creamy chocolate, the not bitter milk chocolate that takes my breath away and stings my tongue. Dark chocolate makes me thirsty. I can’t find any way around it, but chocolate is versatile enough to be on my shopping list, even with the diabetes. I just eat it in moderation.

A few chocolate facts

  1. People mistakenly associate chocolate with diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure in all quantiites. For sue, eating a couple of hundred grams of chocolate a day equals a recipe for unhealthy living, but that’s not how most of us eat chocolate.
  2. Chocolate, via cocoa, does actually contain some beneficial to health ingredients, which in some studies, have even suggested chocolate in moderate quantities can help reduce cholesterol.
  3. Chocolate is high in calories, no matter which version is eaten. White chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, they’re all very high.
  4. Some studies claim that hot chocolate or low levels of chocolate consumption via drinking hot chocolate, can even help with dementia and cognitive function, but there is much research required to confirm or build on that.
  5. In the UK, researchers found riders used less oxygen cycling in trials after eating dark chocolate, which cycling weekly reported on in 2015, and regains covering in the news now and then.

Light and Dark Chocolate – What’s the Difference?

Dark chocolate is often portrayed as being the more ‘healthy,’ option. To be fair, I don’t think there’s terribly much in it if someone were to binge on chocolate.

As a rule, they are both in the region of around 550 calories per 100g. That’s a significant amount of sugar, fat and energy in such a small amount of food.

love dark bar broken
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I’ve picked my favourite chocolate, Cadburys Dairy Milk, to do this comparison, although the internet keeps trying to persuade me that dark chocolate is better for me, I can’t help what I like to eat.

NutrientDairy Milk (100gBourneville (100 g)
Energy534 kcal524 kcal

Summary for Chocolate

As chocolate has such high calories, it’s always going to a food where moderation is the only sensible way to consume it, whether enjoy it or not. Some studies are suggesting chocolate has high levels of antioxidants and is helpful for health, but like all other food, moderation is sensible with a varied diet.

As a diabetic, I’ve heard the term “diabetes on a plate,’ to describe different foods, which is a pretty ignorant way to look at any food. For insulin dependent diabetics, sugar is what can save their lives if they go into a hypo, and for the non insulin dependent diabetic, one square of my favourite chocolate is always going to help alleviate a chocolate craving, whereas any amount of squares of a substitute or so called diabetic friendly chocolate, are still going to leave me disappointed and wanting the real thing.

As with everything, the other junk saying is ‘nobody ever got fat eating apples.’ Seriously, that just shows me someone is ignorant. It’s a load of old cobblers. Calories is he energy out v energy in argument, and yes, there are better calories than others, depending on the food eaten, however, if your body only uses 1300 calories a day to live, and you eat 1400 calories a day of apples, yes, you’ll gain weight eating apples. That might mean 25-30 apples a day, but yes, it’s very possible to get fat eating apples.

In the end, no harm has come to anyone from eating a few squares of chocolate. A few squares, not a few bars, or a few hundred grams a day. There’s a difference. For me, bring on the chocolate. I even cook with my choice of milk chocolate. Cooking chocolate is always disappointing and has no taste for me. I’ll always go for the real thing or do without as a flavouring. I’m always happy as I don’t really like eating cake, so give me a square of chocolate any time. My blood sugar is perfectly fine.

Bring on the smooth milky taste for me…..

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Chocolate is GOOD FOR YOU

Unwrapping a lovely gift for my birthday, I eagerly opened the layers while anticipating a nice box of perfume or a little trinket.   Three faces beaming with delight stood in front of me, and I kept the smile frozen on my face as the last layer came adrift, to the sight of my favourite bar of chocolate – a HUGE one.  My heart sank to my boots and I instantly fought to find words to thank them, and give them all a huge kiss for.  Inside, I felt like weeping at the thought of another two inches on my hips.

Opening it up right away, I snapped sections off and handed the kids all one each.  They ran for little plastic bags from the kitchen and dropped their slabs into protective wrapping before slinking off into the sunset.  I was relieved that I had managed to hand out so much of the bar.

Is chocolate really that bad for us, or is it just that people don’t want us to actually enjoy something that does something with the endorphins in our brains that makes us think we’ve done a 12 mile run.   How have I managed to give myself such a guilt trip over eating one thing that I really do enjoy?

The guilt comes on with one square or ten squares.  If I eat it, I feel annoyed with myself, and I don’t think I am alone in that.

Why is chocolate good for us?

The Guardian reported that “A study by the German Institute of Human nutrition found that flavanols from cocoa boost the body’s supply of nitric oxide, which helps to lower blood pressure.”  I take that to mean eating chocolate is not all bad, even if it’s not dark chocolate.  One point to me.  By eating one square of regular chocolate a day, could I really be reducing my risk of stroke or heart attack?  That sounds like a nice prescription.

They reported the study from the European Heart Journal that flavanols in cocoa are the reason for the reduced blood pressure, and strokes could be reduced by the increase of blood around the brain.

1,568 people were studied, of which, 57% ate milk chocolate, 24% ate dark and 2% ate white chocolate.

Chocolate to excess!

Sadly, the study showed that the benefits were from eating a smallish amount of chocolate as part of the daily diet.   I am more convinced that it would be healthier to have just a few squares a day, but that isn’t easy to do when it’s just sitting there, looking at you and begging to be eaten.

Yes, chocolate is very high in calories, with upwards of 500 calories per hundred grams, so it’s not something that can be eaten without any thought at all.  We all know the damage that eating too many treats can do to our bodies, but some of us just can’t stop.

Why do we crave sweet things ?

Imagine a world where someone with foresight and creative ability found a safe way to avoid sugar cravings.  I, along with my craving affected sisters, would instantly transform them into a being of ever lasting hero worship, making them an overnight billionaire, and more famous than Mrs and Mrs Beckham.

In the real world, we have to do what we can.

Giving in to a sugar craving can send us into a downward spiral where the need to have something sweet takes over our lives.  We satisfy that need with some sugar and our bodies tell us to eat some more.  I have no idea why some of our bodies seem to work so sadly against us, but it is a constant fight to retain some semblance of normality and reducing the sugar need.

How to avoid sugar cravings.

A chocolate bar can be anything up to about 50% (and more) just of sugar.

It’s all about understanding the carbs !!!!  I know this, yet I still struggle, but it’s good to remind myself.   The good carbs will help us keep sugar cravings to a minimum.   Starches like vegetables and cereals do this by breaking down the carbs slowly, and not allowing the blood sugar to get to abnormal levels.

Some tricks to try and help reduce cravings are:

  • Look at the food we eat.  Processed food tends to be quite high in refined sugars, and might be hidden under names like, lactose, dextrose, fructose etc.
  • If you drink tea and coffee and use sugar, gradually cut down the amount of sugar you use, until you can stop altogether.  It really doesn’t take long before the taste of a hot drink with sugar will turn your stomach.
  • In general, white flour and rice has been processed.  Try to replace them with whole grain versions.  Do this by mixing the white with whole grain until you get the taste for it.
  • Try to eat regularly.  Skipping meals can make us more hungry when we do start to eat, and drop our blood sugar levels to increase cravings.  I struggle with this one as I am fine until I start eating in a day.  If I could just stop eating, like an alcoholic can just stop drinking, then I’d have no problem with controlling my weight.
  • Eat fruit and vegetables to replace sugary snacks.   Common sense, but I find there are days when I just can’t get the fruit I would like.
  • I’ve seen the recommendations to use a sugar substitute.   All I can say about that is “bleurgh.”  I’d rather do without than add a substitute.  I’ve used Agave Syrup and Stevia for the kids and cooking quite a bit.  They don’t seem to notice, so I’ll carry on with that.

Chocolate is GOOD FOR YOU? 

Perhaps if I can change my mindset into thinking and believing that chocolate really is good for me, it will lose the love / hate relationship I now have with it.  I want to enjoy eating it, and be able to control how much of a bar I eat.

My new mantra…

Chocolate is good for you, chocolate is good for you, chocolate is good for you, chocolate is good for you, chocolate IS good for you.

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What NOT to feed our pets !!!!

Most of us are guilty of it, and I have many a time scraped the leftover food into our dogs dish, or given her a treat or few from what we are eating.  Apart from a vague knowledge that grapes and chocolate are not that great for dogs, I had not really looked into it in any depth.

I’ve seen a few statements recently about dogs and wolfing down the Christmas candy, and I am guilty of giving the lolloping labrador of the house the odd square of chocolate and she is highly addicted to melon.

I am however, going to change my mind on the chocolate issue as having a look at some of the symptoms of doggie overdose have me utterly convinced that one more square of the cocoa variety is going to have her rolling onto her back with all four paws up in the air for her final breath.

Just to put things into perspective, I had a look for the most poisonous foods I could find for dogs (and other pets).  If your pet shows any of the signs or symptoms of poisoning after eating any of these foods, call your vet urgently.

1 – Cocoa  and Caffeine Treats

Chocolate – say no more, and coffee bean type treats.   Seemingly they overstimulate the heart and the nervous system.

Signs of Poisoning :  Increasing heart beat, agitation, diarrhoea, shaking, very thirsty, restless, seizures

2 – Fruits – Grapes and Raisins 

Thankfully I found no evidence of poisoning with melon as a result, but the possible effect of grapes and raisins opened my eyes as they can damage or cats and dogs precious kidneys.

Signs of Poisoning: Very thirsty, being tired, being sick and needing to pee more often.  As few as 4 – 5 raisins could be poisonous for a dog up to about 10kg.

Fruits – Seeds

Keep away form apple, cheery, peach and plum seeds as they contain cyanide.

It doesn’t take much to realise that a pet ingesting cyanide may become very sick, very soon.

Signs of Poisoning: Sickness, heavy breathing, irregular heartbeat, coma.

Fruits – Avocados

As well as having a high fat content, persin can cause problems in dogs.

Signs of Poisining: Sickness and diarrhoea.

3 – Alcohol and Yeast

I have heard of people laughing at stories of tipsy toms or drunken dachshunds (well, not really, but you get the picture).  It seems that alcohol has a similar effect to chocolate in poisoning our pets.  I think we might have been more aware of the dangers of alcohol in comparison to chocolate, but it is still a bit of a shock to realise that it affects all pets nervous systems.

Bread doughs and uncooked yeasty mixes are attractive to dogs but give the same effect as the yeast turns to methanol.

Signs of Poisoning : Increasing heart beat, agitation, diarrhoea, shaking, very thirsty, restless, seizures

4 – Vegetables – Onions

Any of the onion family can cause problems for our pets, and can also include garlic and chives.   They can destroy blood cells and damage kidneys.

It is difficult to know how much is too much, but effects from these can build up in the system.   Watch table scraps for cooking with onions and garlic in it.

Signs of Poisoning : Increased heart rate, tiredness, lethargy, being sick, diarrhoea, pale gums, blood in pee.

5 – Xylitol

This is a sweetener, used as a sugar free replacement and often used in chewing gum and sweets.  It does not agree with dogs, and causes an increase in insulin leading to low blood sugar, and can cause severe liver damage.

It does not take much to poison a dog so be aware if your four legged friend gets into a pack of your sweeties.

Signs of Poisining: Staggering, collapse and seizures, being weak and could be sick.

6 – Macademia Nuts

Pets in general tend to like nuts, especially dogs and small animals, so I was surprised to see that macademia nuts can cause muscle and nervous system problems for dogs.

Signs of poisoning: Being sick, being lethargic, shaking and body temperature increasing.


For the future, out goes chocolate for my girl, and thankfully her favourite melon gets to stay.   It is important to remember that not all animals will show all symptoms, so if your animal has overdone one of the things on this list, and begins to show the symptoms – please get good advice from a vet.