According to randomized controlled research published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, the gut microbiome benefits from eating dark chocolate. In particular, chocolate consumption increased the amount of Blauti obeum. This bacterial species has been noted to be more abundant in the gut biome of healthy individuals.
An abundant population of Blauti in the gut has been demonstrated to reduce inflammation, restore the metabolism to a healthier state, and fend off pathogenic organisms that try to invade the human body. Many experts have suggested including Blauti in probiotic formulations to improve general human health. The discovery that dark chocolate acts as a prebiotic to support Blauti populations in the human gut is exciting news.
The many benefits of chocolate
Dark, unsweetened chocolate has long been known to support good health. It is a rich source of flavanols and other bioactive plant-derived compounds.
The Mayo Clinic says it may have the following benefits:
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Reduces the risk of diabetes
- Reduces the risk of stroke
- Reduces the risk of some cancers
- Lowers harmful cholesterol levels in the blood
- Improves memory
- Improves mood
Improving the health of the gut biome can now be added to this list. Dark chocolate has health benefits, but the Mayo Clinic says you should limit your intake because of its high fat and calorie content.
What is the difference between cocoa and chocolate?
The cocoa tree, native to South America, grows pods that contain cocoa beans. These beans are loaded with beneficial botanical compounds, which makes them taste terrible.
Long ago, some clever people figured out that if the cocoa beans were fermented, peeled, alkalinized, and ground, pure, raw chocolate would form. This raw chocolate can be processed into commercial chocolate.
Alternatively, the fat content can be removed from the raw chocolate, a product referred to as cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is widely used to produce moisturizers and soaps. After removing the fat, the remaining product is a cocoa solids solid.
The cocoa solids contain all the beneficial botanical compounds found in dark chocolate without the calories or fat concerning the Mayo Clinic. Cocoa powder is ground cocoa solids.
How does cocoa powder support gut health?
Previous studies on animals and humans found that many flavanols in cocoa powder are not absorbed through the intestine. Instead, they remain in the gut, where they interact directly with the various microbes in the gut microbiome.
They encourage the development of beneficial bacteria in the intestines, including Blauti and Lactobacillus. They directly inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium. These flavanols also come into direct contact with the gut lining, exerting anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-boosting effects.
During their interactions with the gut biome, the bacteria consume the flavanols, which use them as a nutritional source. Small molecules are released from the bacteria into the intestine during this process.
These small molecules can be used throughout the body to reduce the risk of heart disease and exert their other beneficial effects. In short, cocoa powder is a prebiotic and only benefits health because it interacts with and affects the gut microbiome.
How much cocoa powder?
The ground-breaking 2022 study that directly demonstrated the powerful prebiotic effects of cocoa had volunteers eat 30 grams of 85% dark chocolate daily for three weeks. When talking about dark chocolate, the percentage means how much of the product is cocoa solids.
Thus, the minimum dose is around 26 grams of cocoa powder daily to improve the gut biome. That's five teaspoons, approximately. Most people put around six teaspoons of cocoa powder into one serving of a chocolate beverage.
What are some ways to consume cocoa powder?
If you are used to consuming milk chocolate or heavily sweetened dark chocolates, the flavor of pure cocoa powder may be surprising. Most people enjoy the taste when the powder is added to foods or beverages.
Cocoa powder can be consumed in many ways:
- Stirred into smoothies
- Sprinkled on oatmeal
- Mixed with fruit
- Added to baked goods
- Served as a hot beverage
Frequently Asked Questions About Dark Chocolate and Gut Health
What is the main finding of the research published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry?
The study found that eating dark chocolate benefits the gut microbiome by increasing the amount of a bacterial species called Blauti obeum. This species is more abundant in the gut biome of healthy individuals.
What are the health benefits of an abundant population of Blauti in the gut?
An abundant population of Blauti in the gut has been shown to reduce inflammation, restore metabolism to a healthier state, and fend off pathogenic organisms that try to invade the human body.
Why is dark chocolate considered beneficial for health?
Dark chocolate is rich in flavanols and other bioactive plant-derived compounds. It has been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers and lowering harmful cholesterol levels. Additionally, it can improve memory and mood.
What is the difference between cocoa and chocolate?
Cocoa refers to the beans from the cocoa tree and the solid product obtained after the fat content has been removed from the raw chocolate. Chocolate is formed after the cocoa beans have been fermented, peeled, alkalinized, and ground.
How does cocoa powder support gut health?
Many flavanols in cocoa powder are not absorbed through the intestine. Instead, they remain in the gut, interacting directly with the various microbes in the gut microbiome. This interaction encourages the development of beneficial bacteria and inhibits the growth of harmful ones.
What was the recommended cocoa intake in the 2022 study?
The 2022 study had volunteers eat 30 grams of 85% dark chocolate daily for three weeks. This translates to approximately 26 grams of cocoa powder daily.
How can one consume cocoa powder?
Cocoa powder can be stirred into smoothies, sprinkled on oatmeal, mixed with fruit, added to baked goods, or served as a hot beverage.
Why is organic cocoa powder recommended?
Organic cocoa powder is recommended because it is free from toxic pesticides and artificial fertilizers often used in standard cocoa plantations.
Is there a difference between "pure dark chocolate cocoa powder" and organic cocoa powder?
Yes, "pure dark chocolate cocoa powder" products often contain more sugar and dried milk than actual cocoa powder. Thus, organic, pure cocoa powder is recommended for optimal health benefits.
How can I ensure I'm buying high-quality cocoa powder?
Look for products labeled as organic and pure cocoa powder, as they will likely be the most beneficial. Be wary of products with added sugar or dried milk.
The darker the chocolate (i.e., the higher the percentage of cocoa), the more beneficial it is for your health.
Dark chocolate has been found to have more antioxidant activity than some high-antioxidant fruits like blueberries and acai berries.
Certain microbes in your gut can break down and ferment the components in dark chocolate, turning them into anti-inflammatory compounds.
Despite its benefits, dark chocolate should be eaten in moderation due to its high fat and calorie content.
Not all cocoa powders are equal. Organic, pure cocoa powder offers more health benefits than those with added sugars and dried milk.
Effects of Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Consumption on Endothelial Function and Arterial Stiffness in Overweight Adults
This study shows that regular dark chocolate or cocoa powder consumption can improve endothelial function, a key marker of cardiovascular health. Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24274771/
Dark Chocolate and the Gut Microbiota
This research demonstrates the positive effects of dark chocolate on the gut microbiota, echoing the study's findings you referenced. Link: https://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Article/2021/09/24/
Impact of Dark Chocolate on Metabolic and Cardiovascular Parameters
The study reports that dark chocolate benefits metabolic and cardiovascular parameters.
Influence of Dark Chocolate on Gut Microbiota in Humans
This study affirms that the consumption of dark chocolate can alter the gut microbiota in humans favorably. Link: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/pr900607v
The Effect of Cocoa Powder on the Modulation of Inflammatory Biomarkers in Patients at High Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
This research suggests that cocoa powder reduces inflammation, thus helping to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19776136/
In conclusion, organic cocoa powder is a potent prebiotic that may enhance human health through its beneficial effects on the gut microbiome. However, take your time and grab any package of cocoa powder at the grocery store.
Even products labeled as "pure dark chocolate cocoa powder" often contain more sugar and dried milk than actual cocoa powder.
In addition, cocoa trees are delicate and hard to grow, so many standard cocoa plantations are routinely drenched with toxic pesticides and artificial fertilizers, contaminating the final product. An organic, pure cocoa powder will give the best results.
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