The Good Bacteria Love Chocolate, Too

by | Feb 5, 2024 | Gut Health

If you love chocolate and have been waiting for someone to tell you that chocolate is good for you, well, today is your lucky day. 

I remember a time, when my gut health was a mess, my cravings were out of control, and I was making multiple trips to the cupboard for my guilty pleasure – chocolate chips from the bag!  It was only when I got my gut health in check that my cravings subsided….But I still enjoy chocolate, for good reason, especially when it’s the good kind.  

Chocolate Supports a Healthy Gut

Chocolate is a prebiotic food that feeds the good bacteria. There it is. The news you have been waiting for. The best possible news for those who want to improve their gut health and also want to continue to enjoy their love of chocolate.

The Anti-inflammatory Effects of Chocolate

It seems that 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 in chocolate into anti-inflammatories that help with heart health. It seems that the credit that chocolate has had for being good for the heart really belongs to the beneficial gut bacteria.

Without the gut bacteria playing this role, the phytonutrients in the chocolate, known as catechins and epicatechins, are poorly absorbed. Gut bacteria helps break down these plant nutrients into smaller metabolites that allow them to be absorbed and lower inflammation in the body. They also act as antioxidants. This is all based on research presented at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS),

Chocolate and Cravings

What about craving chocolate? Is this a craving for magnesium like so many people have speculated? Apparently not. Your gut microbes can control what you eat. Both good and bad bacteria can manipulate the vagus nerve – the key connection between the brain and the gut, to make you think that you want to eat certain foods and that includes chocolate.

Different bacteria want to eat different foods and whatever bacteria have an advantage in numbers, determines what you crave. By convincing you to eat more of a given food, they help keep their numbers strong.  The gut bacteria can even manipulate you to feel anxious and depressed and signal you to eat a given food “to feel better”.

There is still a lot of research to be done, including how we are influenced to overeat and under eat by gut bacteria. In the meantime, the next time you crave chocolate, you do not have to feel guilty. Switch to the dark stuff – it is more nutrient dense and, frankly, not all that moreish…and that’s a good thing. When you choose your chocolate wisely, you will support gut health,  rather than perpetuate cravings…before long you will enjoy a square or two, now and again, and won’t be owned by your chocolate cravings – like I once was. 

I’ve said to many clients, many times – “If you have a trillion living organisms inside of you craving chocolate – guess what you are going to eat?”..But let it be the good stuff – 70% or as dark as you enjoy (because if you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point!). Indulge in small portions as part of a bigger snack.. In doing so, you can continue to enjoy chocolate in a way that supports your gut, your mood and your soul!  

Amanda Janes, Natural Nutrition Clinical Practitioner is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist practising in Newfoundland, Canada.  As a cancer survivor and busy Mom of 4 she knows how vital (and challenging!) good nutrition can be.  Her passion is helping clients overcome obstacles to healthy eating in ways that are practical and delicious. To work with her contact amanda@conceptnutrition.ca.

References:

Prebiotic evaluation of cocoa-derived flavanols in healthy humans by using a randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover intervention study.1,2,3, Xenofon Tzounis et al, Am J Clin Nutr January 2011 vol. 93  no. 1  62-72

Is eating behaviour manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms, Joe Alcock et al, BioEssays, Volume 36, Issue 10,  pages 940–949, October 2014

Amanda Janes, Natural Nutrition Clinical Practitioner is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist practising in Conception Bay South, NL. As a cancer survivor and busy Mom of 4 she knows how vital (and challenging!) good nutrition can be. Her passion is helping her clients overcome obstacles to healthy eating in ways that are practical and delicious. Contact her today: amanda@conceptnutrition.ca

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