Chocolate is one of my favorite treats, particularly dark chocolate because it’s the healthiest type of chocolate.
I’m sure you have heard of a few studies suggesting that chocolate is good for you. The latest study from Louisiana State University, presented at the ACS meeting in Dallas, shows another good reason to consume this addictive treat.
Chocolate and Gut Bacteria
“The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate,” explained Maria Moore, one of the study’s researchers and an undergraduate student.
“When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment it, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory.” The other bacteria in the gut are associated with inflammation and can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. These include some Clostridia and some E. coli.
“When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke,” said John Finley, Ph.D., who led the work.
He explained that cocoa powder contains several polyphenolic antioxidants and compounds such as catechin and epicatechin, and also a small amount of dietary fiber. Both components are poorly digested and absorbed, but when they reach the colon, the desirable microbes take over. “In our study we found that the fiber is fermented and the large polyphenolic polymers are metabolized to smaller molecules, which are more easily absorbed. These smaller polymers exhibit anti-inflammatory activity,” he said.
Healthy Chocolate Types
Here are a few points that I recommend keeping in mind when selecting a chocolate bar:
Choose Organic and fair trade chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa when possible.
Look for chocolate that is sweetened with coconut palm sugar, which converts slower than cane sugar or agave nectar.
Although it’s less common, “Raw chocolate” contains live enzymes that aid in digestion and can be found in some health food stores.
Keep in mind that most chocolate sources contain a fair amount of sugar, so moderation is important.
High blood sugar levels can actually cause an inflammatory response (ouch), so not too much!
The above story is based on information provided by the American Chemical Society.