You probably don’t think that chocolate and the bacteria living in your gut would be healthy, but new research has been going a long way towards proving that notion false. Chocolate, especially darker varieties, can play an important role in keeping your body healthy. Part of that involves the interaction it has with your gut flora. By improving the levels of beneficial bacteria, eating a moderate amount of chocolate can create a variety of healthy results.
Antioxidants and dietary fiber
Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are the best varieties to use when adding chocolate to your diet. This is because they contain the highest amount of chemicals with antioxidant properties, such as catechin. Antioxidants mitigate and prevent the damage caused to cells in your body by free radicals, helping prevent disease and improve cardiovascular function.
Also, chocolate, like most plant-derived foods, contains a certain amount of dietary fiber. Our bodies can’t digest fiber, but our gut flora love it.
Scientists from Louisiana State University conducted a study, presented at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), in which they found exactly how the 1-2 punch of antioxidant compounds and fiber in chocolate benefit our gut flora.
Why better gut flora are worth high-quality chocolate
While buying the darkest types of chocolate is going to run a little more than the low-quality stuff, the benefits of optimal gut flora are far-reaching, numerous and well worth it. Your gut flora can help you control weight, reduce inflammation, improve Insulin Efficiency, improve digestion and colonic function, and even strengthen your immune system.
You can even supplement your dark chocolate, which contains only a little fiber, with some tasty fruits, like acai or grapes, that contain a lot of fiber. As a prebiotic, eating fiber gives food to beneficial gut flora, helping them thrive.
Not all chocolate is the same, nor is all gut bacteria
It’s important to put out a few disclaimers on this topic: Chocolate is full of sugar and eating too much will lower your Insulin Efficiency, give cavities and so on. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder, i.e., the purest forms of chocolate, are the kinds used in studies to find healthy uses.
Milk chocolate and many cheaper varieties contain added sugar and other ingredients that can diminish healthy results. Also, you shouldn’t eat more than a few grams of chocolate per day (about one or two small squares).
FInally, gut flora is a catch-all term for the millions of cells of bacteria living in your gut. Some of these are helpful, like Bifidobacterium, and some aren’t, like E.Coli. Improving your gut flora means raising the levels of good bacteria while lowering the levels of bad.