Author: Nick Marsden
Is dark chocolate a probiotic?
This is quite an interesting question - one that I've been recently asked at our chocolate workshops. I innitially dismissed the idea completely, I mean how could chocolate be possibly a probiotic! But then I thought, let's do a bit of a research and see what happends.
Let’s start by looking at the overall health benefits of dark chocolate.
The processes that go into making your average chocolate bar, means that the cacao loses a lot of its natural health benefits. This is on account of the chemicals added during processing, the extreme heat in roasting the cacao, not to mention the introduction of vast quantities of sugar.
However, raw, unprocessed cacao is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, as well as antioxidants, such as flavonoids. Studies have found that these can help keep the heart healthy and improve circulation as well as reducing blood pressure.
There’s also a lot of fats in raw cacao which promote overall well being which are also found in olive and coconut oils.
We also know that the serotonin content in chocolate can be a mood enhancer, while theobromine, an alkaloid found in cacao, may act to stimulate the central nervous system thereby providing the body with a boost of energy.
OK so far?
Pretty much a summary of general information readily available, you’re probably thinking. Well hold onto your stomachs and it’s certainly not to experience a sinking feeling, either. Quite the contrary, in fact. This one concerns the link between dark chocolate and the bacteria in your stomach.
So back to the question, at last! Is dark chocolate a probiotic?
And it’s back to those flavanol compounds that are found in cocoa powder together with some dietary fibre. To cut a long science story short, the healthy bacteria in our stomach acts to ferment and break down and then release these health promoting compounds into the rest of the body.
So where does Probiotics – often referred to as the good bacteria, come in?
The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
What does that mean?
Well, probiotics, which can be found in food and taken as supplements, are bacteria that your body needs. Your digestive system is full of bacteria — good bacteria — that help your immune system, work to keep your digestive system healthy and efficient, as well as doing numerous other positive things in your body. But bad bacteria, too, can get into your body, and if the bacteria balance gets out of kilter, probiotics add good bacteria back into your system
So, is dark chocolate a probiotic?
Well, yes. Probiotics can be found in foods such as yogurt, kefir, tempeh, kim chi and miso, and indeed chocolate. Eating probiotics several times a week can help prevent colon cancer and improve the body’s immune response to colds and infections.
You’re probably better off trying some fresh kefir from the deli but why not also treat yourself now and again and nibble on a bit dark chocolate on the side…