Chocolate and CKD

Chocolate and CKD

Chocolate is one of life’s most delicious pleasures. In fact it is one of the most popular foods in the world. Did you know chocolate is actually made from roasted and ground cacao seed kernels to produce a variety of types of chocolate. But you may be wondering, what about chocolate and CKD? Can it be included? Are there things to consider with chocolate and CKD? 

Let’s dive in.

Types of Chocolate

There are a few  types of chocolate:

  • Dark chocolate and cocoa powder, which are the least processed, have the highest levels of flavonoids (more on this later) and may offer the greatest potential health benefits.
  • Milk chocolate is not a good sources of flavonoids, while still produced from cocoa powder it has a creamier silkier texture compared to other types of chocolate.
  • White or ruby chocolate is a chocolate confection but does not contain any of the cocoa seeds.

Health Benefits of Chocolate

You’ve probably read that chocolate is good for your heart health. And since we know heart and kidney disease go hand in hand, that must mean that chocolate is good for CKD. Well, don’t stop reading now, because this is not completely true and there are still some things to consider with chocolate and CKD. 

Chocolate may offer health benefits because of the flavonoids. Flavonoids are antioxidants that help to repair damaged cells in the body, which may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. But, more research is needed before a strong recommendation can be made.

Some other good sources of flavonoids in our diet include berries, apples, and nuts. All things our kidneys like. So it is important to include these foods in moderation. 

There are some other touted benefits to chocolate including improving brain function, blood pressure. But this doesn’t mean we should go out and start eating all the chocolate we want. Chocolate does contain sugar and can add unnecessary calories to our diet which could lead to weight gain or high blood sugars. 

Chocolate and CKD

You can enjoy chocolate in moderation with CKD. Just like any other food (except for starfruit); it is all about the portion size and how often you are eating it.  On a diet where we often think there are a lot of no’s, it is important to focus on some of the foods that we can include in small amounts that bring us a lot of joy.

While chocolate is not going to improve your kidney health (just like restaurant meals or fast food meals), it is not going to harm your kidneys or derail your health changes in small amounts. 

Aside from potassium and phosphorus, one thing to consider with chocolate and CKD is the added sugar that comes with eating it. Eating too much sugar has been associated with heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, cancer and cavities.

The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends you consume no more than 10% total calories per day from added sugars, and ideally less than 5%; that is, for an average 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, 10% is about 48 grams (or 12 teaspoons) of added sugars. You can see how much sugar is in a food by reading the nutrition label. The nutrition label lists the added sugar amount in grams. There are 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon. 

Aside from sugar, potassium and phosphorus are the other major concerns with chocolate and CKD. Remember though you only need to limit potassium and phosphorus if your blood values are high. But, here are some things to consider when choosing chocolate with CKD.

  • Size of the chocolate – larger pieces have more potassium and phosphorus than thin pieces or 1 Tablespoon mini chocolate chips.
  • Type of chocolate – choose milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate as it is lower in potassium and phosphorus. For example, 10 g of 70-85% dark chocolate was 71.5 mg potassium and 30.8 mg phosphorus compared to milk chocolate with 37.2 mg potassium and 20.8 mg phosphorus. 
  • Chocolate fillings – chocolates with less chocolate, like Kit-Kat because of the wafer and Aero because of the bubbles, tend to be lower in potassium and phosphorus and come in mini snack sizes. 
  • Chocolate alternatives – consider using ruby cocoa, white chocolate or butterscotch, which are lower in potassium and phosphorus and an excellent alternative for baking.

The Bottom Line …

Chocolate is something that you may have included in holidays and celebrations throughout the year. Chocolate can be part of the renal diet, but there are some factors to consider like our personalized diet needs including potassium and phosphorus but also blood sugar control. 

If you’re looking to feel empowered and supported with your nutrition needs, and include some of our favourite foods in your CKD diet, working with a dietitian can help you gain confidence and understand your kidney-friendly diet and give you food freedom.

Want to work together? Connect with Emily here.

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Published by Emily Campbell, RD CDE MScFN

Emily Campbell, RD CDE MScFN is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in renal nutrition helping those with chronic kidney disease. Emily holds a Master's degree in Foods and Nutrition and is a co-chair of the Southern Ontario Canadian Association of Nephrology Dietitians.

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