Chocolate is a prebiotic and feeds our good bacteria. The bifidobacterium and lactobacillus bacteria in the gut love to gobble up chocolate as much as you do!
In return for the feast, the good bacteria turn the phytonutrients into anti-inflammatories that improve heart health. (So, its actually the bacteria not the chocolate that should get the credit!)
It’s the fermentation process in our gut that breaks down the phytonutrients into smaller metabolites so that they can be absorbed and utilized. They also act as antioxidants.
But, without the gut bacteria, the phytonutrients in the chocolate - known as catechins and epicatechins - are poorly absorbed. So eating fermented foods or taking probiotics regularly is key to enjoying the benefits.
So what's the best kind of chocolate to eat?
Dark chocolate and raw cocoa powder have the highest amounts of gut-healthy flavonols, so look for varieties with:
1. At least 70% cocoa.
2. Low amounts of sugar (preferably from natural sources like honey) and no artificial sweeteners
3. Fat from cocoa butter or coconut oil—stay away from soybean oil, vegetable oils, and trans fats
4. Organic certification to avoid increasingly popular GMO chocolate
But what about craving chocolate?
Is this a craving for magnesium like so many people have speculated? Apparently not.
Because its your gut microbes that influence what you crave to eat.
I bet you thought it was you!
Both good and bad bacteria manipulate the vagus nerve – the key connection between the brain and the gut - to increase your desire to eat certain foods.
When the gut is full of bad bacteria, we crave the junk foods that feed them.
Change your bacteria, change your cravings! Isn’t that something?!
Bacteria want you to eat foods that keep their numbers strong. By having you eat more of a given food, it keeps their numbers high. (Eat less of it, they die off).
The gut bacteria can even manipulate you into feeling anxious and depressed, signaling you to eat a given food "to feel better".
There is still a lot of research to be done, including how our gut bacteria influence us to overeat and undereat.
In the meantime, the next time you crave chocolate, you do not have to feel guilty. Know that it is your good bacteria talking to you to give them a good meal.
I LOVE to bring you good news like this. After ten years in this field, I know that the best way to resolve digestive problems is to feed and nourish your inner garden of helpful microbes… not to starve it… and this is more proof that there’s lots of great foods to eat to get you there!
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It Takes Guts Nutrition
Katanne Belisle RHN
Gut Health Specialist
Whitehorse, YT, CAN
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