Everyone loves chocolate, and an increasing number of health studies are discovering new ways that chocolate, or more specifically cocoa, can positively impact our health. Some recent studies have indicated that cocoa consumption might be healthy for your gut.
Our guts are filled with trillions of bacteria. They help to contribute to overall gut health but also to the health of the immune system, digestion, metabolism, and many other processes that are slowly being discovered. Imbalances among gut bacteria are increasingly being implicated in a number of health issues, from expected disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome to autism, allergies, and even to cancer.
A proper diet is crucial to maintaining good gut health and a proper balance of bacteria. Now it appears that consuming chocolate may help maintain that beneficial balance.
Chocolate as most people know it is a mixture of cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar, and often milk. Researchers looking at the effects of chocolate look primarily at cocoa powder, the dry powder made from roasting cacao beans and separating the cocoa solids from the cocoa butter. Because of its high antioxidant count, cocoa powder is alleged to have many health benefits.
Metabolism of cocoa within the body requires bacteria to accomplish, as it cannot be fully broken down by the body. Many studies have shown that increased consumption of cocoa increases the levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Specifically, levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria were increased among volunteers who drank high-cocoa chocolate milk, while levels of clostridium bacteria decreased.
That’s a sign that cocoa consumption can improve gut health by stimulating the growth of healthy bacteria at the expense of bad bacteria. But don’t go out and gorge yourself on just any old chocolate. Most milk chocolate and chocolate candy bars consist primarily of sugar, while even many dark chocolates don’t contain a large percentage of cocoa. If you want to get the full benefits of cocoa consumption without the negative effects of excessive sugar consumption, it’s best to choose chocolate with the highest cocoa content chocolate you can tolerate.