5 Dark Chocolate Health Benefits That Are Extremely UnderratedWednesday Sep 14, 2022
Imagine a delicious piece of smooth dark chocolate melting on your tongue? Your mouth is probably watering just thinking about it.
For most of us, chocolate is a tasty treat that has a stigma for not being the healthiest. But in actuality, there are a ton of benefits to eating dark chocolate aside from satisfying your sweet tooth.
In fact, your body loves dark chocolate (especially your gut). Yes! Dark chocolate for gut health is actually a thing. Do you suffer from leaky gut? Dark chocolate is good for reducing gut inflammation and intestinal permeability, both of which are crucial to fixing leaky gut. It's also good for your heart, skin, and brain health.
Dark Chocolate Benefits
Read on to learn more about the often underrated dark chocolate benefits that are good not only for your gut health but overall health too!
1. Dark chocolate is a natural prebiotic for your gut
One of the main reasons why dark chocolate is good for you stems from the positive impact it has on your gut health. Prebiotics and probiotics are key to promoting a healthy gut.
High fiber also means improved digestion and less constipation. If staying regular is something you struggle with, check out this post on natural stool softeners.
To put things into perspective, a 100-gram bar of dark chocolate comes in at a whopping 11 grams of fiber per serving. When combined with foods high in probiotics, like Greek yogurt, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, you create the ultimate dark chocolate for gut health one-two punch. But you don't have to eat all these foods at the same time to get the pre and probiotic combination benefits.
2. You're getting a hefty amount of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals
Antioxidants are substances found in foods that work to prevent cell damage in the body. Dark chocolate comes from cocoa beans, and those cocoa beans contain polyphenols, which is a type of antioxidant.
Curious about the power of polyphenols? One small study of 22 participants found that consuming cocoa with a high flavanol content (a type of polyphenol) resulted in sizable increases in both Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli bacteria strains. These two strains are pretty much the gold standard and people with a healthy gut have an abundance of them.
As for the role polyphenols play in the dark chocolate for gut health picture, they act as an anti-inflammatory agent that fortifies your gut and intestinal lining to help with conditions like leaky gut.
There's no shortage of dark chocolate benefits when it comes to the wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it contains. It's loaded with iron, magnesium, copper, and zinc. You'll also find small amounts of vitamins A, B, E, and K in your dark chocolate.
3. It's good for your heart
Let's shift from dark chocolate for gut health and talk a little bit about dark chocolate benefits for your heart. Flavanols are compounds found mainly in fruits and vegetables but they're also found in dark chocolate. They come from the polyphenol family and are known for reducing inflammation in cardiovascular tissue, easing the strain on your arteries, and lowering blood pressure. Research has also linked flavanols to a reduced risk of heart disease.
4. Dark chocolate can improve your skin
Want to protect your skin? The antioxidants in chocolate are a great skin wellness hack. The benefits of dark chocolate for the skin come from flavanols. Research indicates they may help mitigate negative effects of UV light, hydrate your skin, and help with wrinkles.
However, if you already suffer from skin issues like acne, it's worth pointing out that eating dark chocolate could exacerbate symptoms. So, that's something to keep in mind!
5. Boosts to cognitive health and mood
Once again, flavanols exist as a key driver behind dark chocolate benefits. This time, it relates to your brain health and mood. Research has linked dark chocolate consumption to regions of the brain, such as the hippocampus, that deal with improving learning and memory.
The "feel-good" sensation you get after eating a piece of chocolate might actually have some science behind it. Eating dark chocolate means more "happy chemicals" like your endorphins and serotonin, both of which are mood-boosters.
How to Choose the Best Dark Chocolate for Gut Health
Now that we've answered the questions "Is dark chocolate good for your gut?" and talked about the various dark chocolate benefits for your health, how do you know which one to pick? What does a healthy dark chocolate for gut health look like? Don't worry, we have you covered!
For starters, a lot of chocolate bars out there come loaded with sugar, additives, and artificial flavors, which are all things you want to avoid. To be on the safe side, make sure you check the label before indulging.
Sugar can be especially dangerous. Because foods with a lot of sugar can cause huge fluctuations in your blood glucose, sending it spiking and crashing, which not only leaves you feeling completely drained but is detrimental to your health. Also, beware of artificial sweeteners. They may seem harmless but studies indicate they may not be the best for your gut.
One last thing to point out. You want to make sure you're focusing on dark chocolate and not milk chocolate. Milk chocolate typically comes with more sugar than dark chocolate and it has less of an antioxidant makeup. One of dark chocolate's main benefits is its cocoa content (milk chocolate typically only has about 25% of the cocoa that dark chocolate does).
Here are some general guidelines to follow on picking out the best dark chocolate for gut health:
- Comprised of raw cocoa powder that's unsweetened
- 70% or more cocoa
- Low sugar and no artificial sweeteners
- 5% or less of saturated fat per serving (saturated fat feeds inflammatory microbes in the gut)
At the end of the day, dark chocolate is just one beneficial gut health food. But is there a particular diet that's best for improving gut health? This blog post takes a look at how popular diets like keto, paleo, and low FODMAP measure up.
About the Author
Chad Richardson is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH who also enjoys going to the gym and doing his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation, scrolling through Netflix trying to find a new binge-worthy show, and catching a game to root on his hometown sports teams.