Why Is Dark Chocolate Good for You? Thank the Bacteria in Your Gut

Why Is Dark Chocolate Good for You? Thank the Bacteria in Your GutAre you a chocolate lover, like me? I often find I can’t get through the day without at least a small bite of chocolate, whether it is a few chocolate-covered almonds or a square of 70% dark chocolate.

While milk chocolate can be packed with sugar and calories, dark chocolate can actually be quite healthy. And fortunately for those of us who love dark chocolate, research keeps finding new reasons to eat more of it. From lowering blood pressure to helping preserve memory, dark chocolate has numerous health benefits. Recent studies are beginning to discover why chocolate is so good for you, and the answer might lie in the bacteria in your gut.

Health benefits of dark chocolate

Chocolate comes from seeds of the tree Theobroma cacao. Dark chocolate contains high amounts of ground cacao (the higher percentage of cacao, the better). Ground cacao contains many healthy compounds, including polyphenols. These compounds help to prevent and treat diseases, especially of the brain and cardiovascular system. There is an abundance of research showing that cacao can improve memory, boost mood, lower blood pressure, improve insulin resistance, and more.

Chocolate and gut microbiota

Recent research has elucidated one of the major reasons why chocolate might be so beneficial to your health. Cacao can act like a prebiotic or probiotic in your digestive system, modulating the amounts of different types of bacteria in the gut.[1]

Findings from a new study on chocolate and gut bacteria were presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in March of 2014. There are both good, beneficial bacteria in our gut, and bad, harmful bacteria in the gut, such as E. coli. John Findley and his team of researchers found that when you eat chocolate, the good bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium, and lactic acid bacteria, like to feast on the chocolate.[2]

The polyphenols, antioxidants, and fiber found in chocolate are not easily digestible. However, when the bacteria feast on the chocolate, they ferment the fiber and release easily absorbable, smaller, anti-inflammatory compounds in the process. Findley says, “When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke.”[2] Anti-inflammatory compounds can help with a variety of other health conditions, as well.

Findley also says that consuming chocolate along with prebiotics, as well as antioxidant-rich fruits like pomegranates or acai, can make chocolate even more beneficial for your health.[2]

Share your experience

Do you love chocolate? What are your favorite types of high-quality, healthy dark chocolate? Share your love of chocolate in the comments section below.

[1] Front Pharmacol. 2013 Feb 7;4:11.

[2] American Chemical Society News Release. 2014 Mar 18.

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

View all posts by UHN Staff

Comments Comments Policy

    Leave a Reply

    You must be logged in to post a comment.

    Enter Your Login Credentials
    This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.