Wondering if chocolate fits into your diet?
Generally, today’s most common diet plans give a positive nod to cocoa - after all, it’s made from cocoa seeds that are extracted from a fruit. Plus, natural cocoa and dark chocolate has proven to have several health benefits as shown in recent medical studies. Where things get more complicated is when cocoa is made into chocolate, which can have 5-15 other ingredients in the mix.
Here’s the lowdown on trending diets and which ones allow you to eat chocolate without breaking the rules. Read carefully, as there are specific caveats for each diet that determine what kind of chocolate gets a thumbs up.
The aim of a ketogenic, or low-carb, diet is to achieve and maintain a state of ketosis, which means your body is rewired to burn fat for energy rather than glucose. Naturally, a keto diet is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. An acceptable amount of daily carbohydrates for keto can be anywhere between 20-100 grams per day.
Cocoa solids have little fat and no sugar, so it doesn’t really help you but it also doesn’t hurt you on a keto diet. On the other hand, cocoa butter, sugar, and milk found in most commercial chocolates can and likely will push you beyond the allotted amount of carbohydrates per day.
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder or Nibs
You can have unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s 100% cocoa solids with no added sugar. Similarly, cocoa nibs are pure cocoa. Add these to a smoothie, salad, or other recipes.
100% Dark Chocolate
These chocolate bars contain only one ingredient - pure cacao. They are unsweetened and, unlike baking chocolate, tempered and meant for personal enjoyment. Keep in mind that 100% dark chocolate can be very bitter, but many craft chocolate makers offer a 100% bar that feature complex flavors and can be creamy to satisfy your chocolate cravings.
Ultra Dark Chocolate, At Least 80% or Higher
Dark chocolate typically includes only three ingredients - cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. This can be a sweet treat enjoyed in small amounts. Half an ounce of ultra dark chocolate can be about 5-8 grams of carbohydrates, mostly from sugar. Here are some of our favorite ultra dark keto friendly chocolates.
The goal of the paleo diet is to eat the same foods that were available to people living during the Paleolithic era. The thought being that our bodies have not adequately adapted to the over processed foods that exist today, and so it wholly rejects any foods that resulted from farming and modern technology. A good rule to follow is anything that can be hunted and gathered is okay, which translates to lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Cocoa, and even chocolate, definitely fit within the bounds of paleo. The tricky part is processed sugars and milk do not. And the majority of commercial chocolate, including micro-batch craft chocolate, contains processed sugars. A general rule of thumb among Paleo dieters is the darker the chocolate, the better. Go for dark chocolate above 70% and even better above 85% cacao content. The more cacao % in a chocolate bar, the less sugar and other ingredients it will contain.
If you're hesitant to try chocolate that is above 85% cacao because you find it unpalatable or too bitter, do yourself a favor and try some high quality craft chocolate before you rule out all ultra dark chocolate. Unlike industrial mass produced chocolate, dark chocolate from craft chocolate makers have a myriad of complex flavors and is both rich and delicious.
Alternatively, you can also look for chocolate bars that don't contain any cane sugar, and are sweetened with natural sweeteners. The more popular paleo alternatives for sugar are honey, maple syrup, maple sugar, and coconut sugar. Another great option is to use dried fruits like dates and raisins to sweeten things up.
Whole 30 is an extremely strict diet that excludes all sugar, dairy, grains, alcohol, legumes, and treats. You can eat meat, seafood, eggs, and a moderate amount of fruit. You can also have natural fats, herbs, spices, and seasonings, as well as all the vegetables you want.The no sugar and no dairy policy limits your options to only natural cocoa.
What would Whole 30 purists say?
Technically, cocoa powder and cocoa butter are Whole 30 compliant, which means pure cocoa powder and 100% dark chocolate bars are allowed.
However, Whole 30 purists argue that one of the goals of this diet is to correct and permanently change your food decisions. Rather than reaching for sweet treats like chocolate to satisfy your hunger, Whole 30 breaks and replaces these habits with healthier choices that fit the natural needs of your body. Even when it comes to something as natural and bitter as cocoa powder, Whole 30 purists argue that cocoa will act as a stand-in for chocolate. These bad habits of reaching for sweet treats need to be cut off cold turkey, otherwise there is a high chance of relapse after the 30 days are up.
We’ll leave it up to you.
Intermittent fasting is a popular method of fasting completely or significantly reducing your calories for a period of time followed by periods of eating normal. Proponents of this diet believe that extended fasting allows your body to perform important cellular functions as opposed to spending most of the day on the singular task of digesting food.
There are several ways to intermittent fast. For instance, you can alternate between days of fasting and days of eating normal. Other common approaches are to fast for two days a week while eating normal for the other five days, or only eat within a specific eight-hour window of time each day.
Whichever you prefer, intermittent fasting isn’t a diet that focuses on what you eat but rather when you eat.
That being the case, can you eat all the chocolate you want when you aren’t fasting?
The simple answer is yes. There are no restrictions to what you can eat on this diet. However, the point of intermittent fasting like any other diet is to be healthy and lose weight. To do this, making healthier cocoa choices and eating chocolate in moderation will be more effective.