Chocolate For a Healthy Gut

Photo by Lisa Fotios on

With 70% of Americans having digestive complaints, taking deliberate steps to protect the gut is vital to our health and wellbeing.

Our gut produces 75 percent of our neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are substances that are involved with sending messages throughout the body and play a vital role in mood regulation. The gut also houses two-thirds of our body’s immune tissue making it vital for keeping us well. It’s also more metabolically active than our liver. These are a few of the reasons why Hippocrates knew long ago that “All diseases begin in the gut.”

Chocolate has gained some ground in being recognized for its health benefits and we may have our guts to thank.

Cocoa is loaded with plant compounds called polyphenols. These polyphenols are known for feeding a healthy gut microbiome.

The specific polyphenols in cocoa are called flavanols. Our gut bacteria ferment the cocoa’s flavanols into smaller molecules that can then move into our bloodstream and reduce inflammation throughout the body. This reduction in inflammation may even lead to improved insulin sensitivity and reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Cocoa also has fiber that gets broken down into short chain fatty acid such as butyric, propionic, and acetic acid. These short chain fatty acids are the preferred fuel source of the cells of the intestine. They protect the lining of the gut and prevent “leaky gut syndrome”. Leaky gut can cause problems such as gas, bloating, skin issues, and brain fog to name a few.

Finally, when choosing chocolate, look for lower sugar, organic options with the least number of ingredients possible. Dark chocolate that is 70% Cocoa or higher is preferred as it has higher concentrations of healthful flavanols. Avoid dark chocolate that is Dutch or Alkali as these processes remove the bitter flavor and thus reduce the antioxidant content of the chocolate. For added texture and interest, look for options that are combined with nutrient dense nuts and seeds. Monitor overall portions. For added volume and an extra boost of plant polyphenols drizzle melted dark chocolate over fresh berries.

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