Chocolate doesn’t always have to be a guilty treat. Yes, you heard us right!
We have been looking into the proven health benefits of dark chocolate. These include BMI decrease, heart health support, improved blood flow and reduced stress. Dark chocolate can also have a positive impact on your gut health as it feeds good gut bacteria. Disclaimer: Not all chocolate has a positive effect on your gut and health – eat with caution!
The good and the bad bacteria
Trillions of microbes make up your microbiome that work together to produce many benefits such as maintaining a healthy metabolism, weight, immune system and even help support your positive mental health. Most of these microbes are beneficial, good bacteria and fungi which are vital for good health. More than 10,000 species of bacteria, both good and bad, have been identified in the gut and outweigh human cells by 10:1. However, if your intestines suffer from microbe imbalance or abnormal gut microbiomes, this can lead to you developing allergies, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel, as well as many other health issues.
Where does dark chocolate come into this?
Your gut microbes require nourishment so they can grow and reproduce to continually override the bad bacteria and fungi. Prebiotics are fibre compounds which we can’t digest and are required to ‘feed’ our microbiome and aid digestion, keeping our bodies happy and healthy. Dark chocolate is an example of a prebiotic as it contains fibre which goes through your digestive tract to the intestine undigested, then it is used by probiotics to grow beneficial microbes, maintain a balanced microbiome and support health.
There have been many studies into the benefits of dark chocolate, including from Dr Microbiome who found that people who consumed cocoa with high doses of flavanols, which are naturally occurring antioxidant molecules, for four weeks saw an increase in the probiotics Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, which prevent inflammation in the intestines and maintain good gut health. It has also been found that good bacteria can ferment dark chocolate fibre and turn them into short-chain fatty acids, to fight off damaging microbes and reinforce the barrier of the gut against harmful substances.
Dark chocolate can also help relieve symptoms of ‘leaky gut’, which is when there is an increased gap in the intestinal walls’ lining where toxic particles such as fungi, bacteria, food particles, and waste products can directly enter the bloodstream. This is caused by bacterial imbalances and inflammation within the gut but can be relieved by consuming foods that have a positive effect on your intestinal bacteria and can keep inflammation at bay, such as our good friend dark chocolate.
How to include dark chocolate in your diet
Before you go out and buy your favourite chocolate bar, there is some criteria that your chocolate needs to meet in order to benefit your gut health. It is best to opt for raw cocoa powder and dark chocolate with high amounts of flavonoids which are good for the gut. Other things to look out for in your chocolate include:
- Contains at least 70% cocoa
- Low sugar amount and no artificial sweeteners (you can find some chocolates which are sweetened using honey)
- Contains fat from coconut oil or cocoa butter
- Organic and Fair Trade certification
Experts say you should eat 40 grams of dark chocolate each day for at least eight weeks, which sounds amazing to us! Instead of just eating a few squares every day, why not try some new ways to integrate dark chocolate into your diet? You could try dark chocolate covered strawberries, adding dark chocolate to your morning porridge or grated on top of granola? Our Troo Energise Porridge with Chocolate & Maca, Troo Granola Chocolate with Orange and Troo Chocolate Inulin Syrup contain Cocoa Powder which can also contribute to your daily intake of prebiotics.