News from Hershey’s: Diabetics can eat sugar!


To be fair, there’s a lot of useful information on this website from Hershey’s (as in the candy company) about diabetes and sugar. It points out that diabetics can eat sugar in small quantities — provided that they manage it appropriately with insulin or exercise — and explains some of the different kinds of sugar substitutes and how they’re digested. Hell, it even provides a hotline number for the ADA and some baking tips — though somehow I doubt too many people are going to permanently start using baby food as a sweetener in their Toll House cookies.

But there’s still a “fox-guarding-the-henhouse” aspect to a candy company advising diabetics — let alone giving advice to doctors and nurses on how to, as the website states, “educate people on how to manage their diabetes and live healthy lives while enjoying one of life’s most evocative and symbolic pleasures: chocolate.”

Speaking as someone who’s tried the apple-sauce-in-baked-goods trick (the dirty secret: it’s just not that good), I feel like I should add my own advice on how to manage this particular evocative and symbolic pleasure: eat it in small quantities. Also, don’t eat Hershey’s — it’s way too sweet, and doesn’t hold a candle to the real stuff. Instead, acquire a taste for dark chocolate, the more expensive the better — money has an amazing way of encouraging self-restraint. (Sure, I’ll eat something that eventually could make me go blind — but if it’s $7 a bar? Forget about it!)

For a long time I was eating Scharffen-Berger 70% cacao; these days my favorite is Green & Black, also 70%. I have a small piece after lunch or dinner and, I’ll admit it, I don’t feel guilty at all. The chocolate’s dark enough (and the quantity I eat small enough) that it doesn’t have much effect on my blood sugar, and it’s rich enough to be satisfying.

Which brings me to my next point: if you’re going to splurge, people, splurge on the good stuff! The richer and denser a treat is, the more likely you’ll be satisfied with less. Why would I need to eat an entire chocolate bar when one piece is so goddamn good? Feed me a Hershey’s kiss, on the other hand, and I’m likely to eat five — hoping against hope that the next bite will be better.

Lastly, a word of caution: Several years ago I did a charity bike ride for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation — a 100+ mile ride in Death Valley, of all places — and spent the night beforehand eating a small bag of sugar-free Hershey’s kisses that had come in my gift pack. I was impressed — they really did taste like regular Hershey’s kisses. Content, I curled up in bed, excited — if nervous — to wake up at six the next morning and hop on my bike.

Several hours later, disaster struck. I don’t want to get too graphic about my own intestinal tract, so instead I will quote from Hershey’s own website about some of the possible side effects of eating sugar-free candies:

“Some sugar alcohols may cause gas, stomach discomfort and diarrhea in people who are sensitive to sugar substitutes.”

I learned two things that night, hunched over on the hotel toilet:

1. I am very, very sensitive to sugar substitutes

2. This is not a lesson you want to pick up right before riding your bike for 100 miles in the desert

That, my friends, is why I now eat 70 % cacao.

Want to hear more stories about junk food companies’ clever attempts to repackage their products as healthy (and, in this case, educational)? Check out this editorial I wrote for the Los Angeles Times called “M&M Math For Fat Kids.”

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David Copperfield
David Copperfield
10 years ago

People with diabetes do not necessarily have to cut themselves from eating sweets and sugary stuff. Dark cholocates are really efficient to satisfy one’s hunger from chocolates. Not only it has a very rich chocolate flavor, it is has a mild effect because it contains natural cacao instead of sugar and artificial sweets. It is incredibly suitable for diabetics.     


[…] because it would be too painful to say good-bye to them again tomorrow.  So, following the lead of Catherine Price, I decided to go for dark chocolate.  Until yesterday, to me dark chocolate had always been […]

Diana McCalla
12 years ago

I, too, am sensitive to the artificial sweeteners and have experienced what you experienced.  And it usually happens at the most inoperable time. I love chocolate, and fortunate for me, I was introduced to a raw, unprocessed, cold-pressed dark chocolate that has all of the good and none of the bad in chocolate.  Even more important than the cocoa content is how it is processed.  10 per cent unprocessed is better than 90 per cent processed!   The chocolate I am referring to is the kind of chocolate that is used in clinical trials and has the high flavonoid content that… Read more »

Jessica Apple
12 years ago

Eating a tiny bit of dark chocolate every day is good for your heart too.  Research has shown that dark chocolate (in very small amounts) reduces inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease.

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