Dark Chocolate for Gut Health? Yes, please.

  • by Michelle B.
  • 19 October 2017

Dark Chocolate for Gut Health? Yes, please.

We all like to indulge every once in a while, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Living a healthy lifestyle is all about balance. That’s why we’re excited to share some news about one of our favorites indulgences: chocolate.

Recent studies are indicating that chocolate can actually be GOOD for your gut health.

Say what!? That’s right chocolate lovers, it’s time to indulge. BUT, before we do let’s talk about how dark chocolate benefits your health and the type that’s best. Because, sadly, not all chocolate is created equal.

First, the Science

Cocoa, chocolate’s main ingredient, is rich in polyphenols—plant-based, micronutrients that are full of antioxidant protection which is key for your overall wellness. What’s great about these polyphenols is that they act as a prebiotic in your gut, feeding and nourishing your “good” gut bacteria.

But, there’s just one problem…polyphenols are difficult to absorb—meaning they won’t just go anywhere willingly.

That’s where your beneficial bacteria come in. As your “good” guys chow down on your little indulgence, they break down the hard-to-digest polyphenols so that they can be better absorbed into your blood stream—where you can reap their health benefits.

And that’s not all! Studies also show that when certain “good” bacteria strains “eat” these polyphenols, the beneficial bacteria can multiply, which is great for your gut health.

In fact, researchers gave individuals high-cocoa vs. low-cocoa flavanol (a plant-based nutrient) drinks to observe the potential benefits of cocoa. And, it turned out that those who drank the high-cocoa flavanol drink had a significant increase in Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli (two “good” guy strains). This could be great for those with IBS, who tend to have a lower number of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli in the gut.

This means that the relationship between the polyphenols in cocoa and your “good” bacteria is mutually beneficial, which—in our opinion—is pretty darn cool. (We’re nerds, we know)

And, to take it one step further, it has been shown that dark chocolate may reduce cortisol (your stress hormone) and catecholamines (responsible for your fight or flight response)—which is key to help keep your gut balanced.

How to Indulge

If you plan to give into your chocolate cravings and want all the healthy goodness that comes with it, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Eat Chocolate with High Cocoa—70% or Higher

    The higher the cocoa, the better the results. Studies indicate that the “good” guys in your gut “love” chocolate that has a higher percentage of cocoa because it generally has more polyphenols.

  • Avoid Excess Sugar and Fat

    Read the labels of the chocolate you buy and keep an eye out for additives—which can affect the polyphenol concentration. When in doubt, go with a treat featuring cocoa powder instead of a sugary, fat-filled chocolate bar.

  • Say “No” to Milk Chocolate

    Dark chocolate is the way to go. Unfortunately, milk chocolate includes milk and sugar which lessens the number of polyphenols and may even diminish their health benefits.

  • Eat in Moderation

    We know it’s exciting to find out that dark chocolate is good for the gut, but it is still important to eat it in moderation. Many recommend one small piece a day. Remember, healthy living is about balance.

So, now that we’ve got you craving dark chocolate, you might be pondering which brand is best. Our top two favorites are Endangered Species Chocolate (try the Dark Chocolate with 88% Cocoa) and Equal Exchange (try the Organic Very Dark Chocolate). MmmmMmmm…let’s get shopping!

About the Author

About the Author

Passionate writer and dog lover, Michelle continues to do crazy amounts of research and ask tons of questions to understand this health and wellness “thing.” She’s here to help break it down for you because health is a journey—and it’s better to do it with others.

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