Thanks to its polyphenol powers, dark chocolate has gained a healthy reputation as modern science has discovered the delicious ways it beats life-threatening diseases.
In fact, the chocolaty path to better health may start in the gut, according to a recent Louisiana State University (LSU) study.
Determining how chocolate mixes with gut bacteria to produce measureable health benefits was a “rather disgusting process,” according to LSU food sciences professor John Finley (as told to Scientific American).
First, three kinds of cocoa powder were doused with enzymes to recreate the upper digestive tract in humans, then traveled to a gut filled with feces harvested from nine grad students (you were warned).
The gut microbes inside the, um, poop, then consumed the remainder of the cocoa. What was left at the end: Fermented fiber and non-digestible compounds, including catechin and epicatechin (also found in green tea, skins and seeds of some fruits). These were broken down into smaller, more easily absorbed molecules that display the beneficial anti-inflammatory activity, which other studies have previously revealed.
The minuses about eating chocolate
If the positive benefits from these studies has piqued your curiosity about eating chocolate a bit more regularly, there are caveats to consider.
A growing number of studies have demonstrated these health advantages come from eating dark chocolate, not processed chocolate candy bars containing milk and sugar. The real plus, health experts say, comes from eating chocolate containing the highest percentages of cocoa.
“The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate. When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment it, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory,” says co-study author and LSU student Maria Moore.
Additionally, researchers found patients could achieve even greater benefits by eating dark chocolate with fruits, like acai and pomegranates.
The Bifidobacterium connection
To derive benefits from dark chocolate, however, be sure you’re eating minimally processed chocolate containing higher percentages of cocoa. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more bitter the dark chocolate will taste.
Also, even though dark chocolate may be good for your health, you can’t eat it all the time. Any extra ingredients can add lots of extra fat and calories your body doesn’t need and limit any health benefits.
However, your gut must be healthy to take advantage of these dark chocolate benefits. Bifidobacterium, one of the beneficial strains of bacteria identified by LSU researchers, is one of the active strains contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Advanced Junior.
In addition to the multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, both EndoMune probiotics contain no dairy products, preservatives and artificial colorings and are GMO- and gluten-free.