Researchers suggest that chocolate could be beneficial to health because it contains antioxidants. However, chocolate also increases the amount of uric acid in the body, which increases the risk of gout.
Gout is a form of arthritis that results in pain, heat, swelling, and redness, often in the big toe joint. One factor of gout is
Food high in purines can increase the risk of gout. High purine foods include organ meat, red meat, and some types of seafood, such as sardines, tuna, trout, and anchovies. Consuming alcohol and fructose, a kind of sugar, also results in a higher risk factor for gout.
Chocolate is not a high purine food. However, some of the ingredients in chocolate, particularly white and milk chocolate, may increase uric acid and a person’s risk of developing gout.
In this article, we examine whether chocolate is beneficial or harmful for people with gout. We also discuss the types of chocolate and their properties and which one is most suitable for people with gout.
A person should aim for a varied and balanced diet, which may include occasional treats such as chocolate.
A 2018 study found that if a person included a small amount of dark chocolate or chocolate powder in their diet, this could help reduce their uric acid production.
However, chocolate contains high amounts of sugar, fat, and salt. A person might wish to account for this in their diet.
People can aim to reduce the number of flares they experience from gout and reduce joint damage by following medical advice from a doctor. They can also practice self-management strategies, such as:
- limiting drinks sweetened with fructose
- avoiding foods high in purines
- maintaining a weight that is healthy for them
- exercising regularly
People can eat chocolate bars as part of a varied, healthy diet. However, chocolate bars are high in saturated fat and sugar, which may lead to weight gain.
Furthermore, the more chocolate bars a person eats, the more uric acid will be present. Both weight gain and increased uric acid levels increase the risk of gout and its associated health concerns.
Chocolate comes in many varieties, including white, milk, dark, and ruby.
White chocolate contains the butter or fat from cocoa beans. Manufacturers make white chocolate from condensed or powdered milk, and it contains up to 55% sugar. Due to the high fat and sugar content, white chocolate is usually higher in calories than other chocolate varieties.
Food high in sugar can be a trigger for gout. Additionally, an increase in visceral fat around the stomach has a positive association with this condition. If a person tends to gain weight primarily around their stomach, they may wish to opt for a snack that is lower in calories.
White chocolate does not contain cocoa solids, which create the flavor and color of dark and milk chocolate.
Some cocoa beans have a natural pink color and fruity taste, which forms ruby chocolate. Ruby chocolate entered the United States market in 2019.
The ingredients for ruby chocolate are similar to white chocolate, including:
- vanilla flavor
- skim milk powder
- whole milk powder
- cocoa mass
- cocoa butter
Ruby chocolate does not typically have artificial flavoring or coloring. However, sugar is the main ingredient, posing the same potential risks as white chocolate.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), milk chocolate may contain no less than:
- 10% of chocolate liquor
- 3.39% milk fat
- 12% milk solids
Manufacturers may add other optional ingredients to milk chocolate, including sugar. People with gout may prefer milk chocolate brands with no additional sugars.
Dark chocolate contains polyphenols from cocoa beans, which may have a beneficial effect on the body. Many fruits, vegetables, and cereals are good sources of dietary polyphenols.
A 2017 study found that dark chocolate polyphenols have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help improve symptoms of gout. Researchers also suggest that cocoa and dark chocolate may benefit the vascular system and the central nervous system.
However, as with all chocolate, dark chocolate can be high in sugar. People may wish to either eat this snack in moderation or choose chocolate with a high cacao content and low added sugar.
Creating sugar-free chocolate was a challenge for the candy industry because sugar acts as a sweetener, bulk, and texture for chocolate.
A 2016 study found that combining different sweeteners made it possible to produce sugar-free white chocolate.
While one study suggests that sugar-free dark chocolate may result in lower blood glucose for adults with diabetes,
People with diabetes or gout should try to consume dark chocolate that is low in sugar. They can check nutrition labels and choose brands with a high cacao content and lower added sugar.
A 2017 review reports that the benefits of chocolate for gout may include:
- increasing circulation and offering some protection against heart diseases that add to the risk for gout
- reducing high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for gout
- reducing inflammation in the intestine, which has links to gout
A smaller 2018 study on 20 volunteers suggests eating cocoa-derived products may inhibit uric acid crystallization, which contributes to gout.
Dark chocolate or cocoa powder may offer some benefits for gout. However, a person should always check the nutrition facts label before purchasing chocolate, as high sugars can trigger this condition. White and ruby chocolate are often higher in sugar than milk and dark chocolate.
If a person decides to eat chocolate, they should ensure it is part of a balanced diet. The Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of triggering gout.