Kidney Diet Tips

Dark Chocolate: Heart Healthful, Dialysis Friendly?

February brings Heart Health Month and Valentine’s Day. Chocolate is one sweet temptation associated with both. Often, dialysis patients are told to stay clear of chocolate due to its high potassium and phosphorus content. So, what do you do when it comes to chocolate?

First, here’s a quick background on this treat: Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean (also known as cacao bean) of the cacao tree. The cocoa bean contains high amounts of flavonoids, which contain properties that help protect the heart. To make chocolate, the cocoa beans are dried, fermented, roasted and formed into cocoa powder. Then, ingredients like fat (cocoa butter), sugar and other ingredients are added to form dark chocolate, bittersweet chocolate and milk chocolate, to name a few. The more processing the cocoa bean goes through, the more the flavonoid content decreases. So, which chocolate offers the most heart health protection?

The chocolate choice that will give you the most heart health protection is dark chocolate, with at least 70% or more cocoa. Dark chocolate has a higher cocoa content and a lower phosphorus content than milk chocolate. It also has less sugar and less of the unhealthy saturated fat. So, how do you incorporate chocolate into your dialysis diet to get the most heart health protection?

Unlike a prescription for phosphorus binders for dialysis patients, there isn’t a prescription yet for the amount of dark chocolate one should eat. Remember, a small amount goes a long way. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, one ounce of dark chocolate made with 70-85% cocoa contains 87 mg of phosphorus, 203 mg of potassium and 170 calories. Moderation is the key to keeping lab values normal.

In addition to chocolate, there are other foods like apples, onions, and cranberries that are rich in flavonoids and lower in calories.

Here are a few ways to enjoy 70% or more cocoa heart healthful dark chocolate in moderation:

  • Drizzle a small amount of melted dark chocolate on top of dessert
  • Dip fruit into dark chocolate only half way
  • Enjoy a cup of Fabulous Hot Cocoa from DaVita’s recipe collection
  • Savor one ounce of dark chocolate every once in a while. Speak to your dietitian about how to include it in your meal plan
  • Top your low phosphorus dessert with a few shavings of dark chocolate
  • See Kidney Diet Tips: The Scoop on Chocolate for Valentine’s Day for ideas on dark chocolate selections

Always speak with your physician or renal dietitian for information on how to include items like dark chocolate in your individualized meal plan. For other low phosphorus holiday treat ideas, check out Low-Phosphorus Holiday Treats: Desserts & Drinks.

Carisa Ishimaru, RD, LDN

Carisa has been a registered dietitian for over 18 years. She has a diverse nutrition background, including child and adult weight management, diabetes self-management education, cancer prevention and management, renal disease management, conducting cooking classes, grocery store tours, and teaching nutrition classes to the public. She is passionate about providing research-based information in a practical, easy to use format. Carisa enjoys cooking and baking healthful foods for her family and friends.