Dark Chocolate is Good For Your Gut Health

bowl of chocolate with chocolate shavings around it.

Chocolate lovers now have even more reason to indulge in their favorite treat – just as long as it is of the dark chocolate variety. Scientists have found that consuming small amounts of dark chocolate – about the size of a chocolate square can be beneficial to your gut health.

Cocoa is a natural prebiotic

Cocoa, the main ingredient of dark chocolate products, acts as a prebiotic and can change the balance of microorganisms in your gut. Studies have found that participants who consumed cocoa rich beverages had more Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species in their gut compared to the control group. Lactobacillus bacteria help to reduce cholesterol, improve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), help to keep the lining of your intestines intact, and prevent harmful bacteria from colonizing your intestines.  Bifidobacteria plays a similar role. Like Lactobacillus, it helps with the symptoms of IBS. It also helps control constipation and decreasing the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. Moreover, it helps to improve the microbiota in the intestines, especially by reducing the count of Clostridium histolyticum – a strain of bacteria associated with IBS.

Dark chocolate helps you feel full

Eating dark chocolate has an additional benefit – it helps you feel full. When your gut bacteria metabolizes cocoa, it creates short chain fatty acids which has an effect of satiety. In fact, the ancient Aztec cultures used cocoa to help warriors with endurance – claiming that consuming cocoa can help their warriors go on for longer without food.

Dark chocolate, our gut bacteria and inflammation

Dark chocolate is full of phenols. The problem is that phenols are pretty hefty compounds and cannot be absorbed as is. Luckily, our gut bacteria can break down phenols into smaller compounds which helps fight inflammation. This benefit is not only beneficial to your gut health, but also to your heart health.

Stick with high quality dark chocolate

These health benefits do not imply a free for all chocolate binge. The best way to reap the benefits is to include small amounts of high quality dark chocolate into your diet. Eating sugary, low quality milk chocolate won’t help. Milk chocolate contains less cocoa and more sugar, which can be detrimental to your gut health. Harmful bacteria loves sugar and can easily proliferate if you feed it with sugary milk chocolate instead of healthy dark chocolate which promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria.

More natural pre-and probiotics

A diet which supports the growth of healthy gut bacteria can go a long way to improve digestion and to combat the symptoms of gut problems such as IBS. This includes eating foods that are natural prebiotics and probiotics. Raw garlic is an excellent prebiotic which helps to feed healthy gut bacteria. Cultured and fermented foods such as yoghurt and cheese enriches your digestive tract with healthy gut bacteria. Sauerkraut is another foodstuff that promotes the growth of Lactobacillus bacteria. The acidity of sauerkraut and other fermented food products helps healthy gut bacteria to really thrive in your digestive tract.

Let’s recap. A few bites of dark chocolate per day can help healthy gut bacteria to thrive in your digestive tract. Not only will this help to improve gut health such as reducing symptoms of IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, constipation and diarrhea, it also helps you to feel full. Consuming cocoa rich products helps to fight off harmful bacteria in your gut – just make sure that you don’t eat the sugary kind which helps harmful bacteria to thrive instead. So go ahead and snack on healthy, rich, high quality dark chocolate – your gut will thank you for it.