Why Is Dark Chocolate Good for You?
Dark chocolate might pack a double positive punch for our health—thanks to the microbes that live in our gut. New research suggests that beneficial bacteria that reside toward the end of our digestive tract ferment both the antioxidants and the fiber in cocoa.
Other new research helps explain how some of cocoa’s widespread health benefits—from improving vascular function to increasing insulin sensitivity—may be linked—and good for even the young and the healthy.
Not all chocolate is created equal, however. Dark chocolate gets all the good publicity because it has relatively lower added sugar and fats than milk chocolate. “The benefits come from cocoa,” Pereira notes—thus, “chocolates with the highest proportion of cocoa are better.” Even when it comes to pure cocoa powder—which can be used for a hot beverage or added as a topping—no one knows the ideal amount. Even the darkest of the dark chocolates “must be consumed in moderation to avoid weight gain,” he notes.
Finley and his team went straight for the pure, unsweetened cocoa powder to test its impact on gut microbes. Nevertheless, each type produced slightly different results. The researchers sent three types of cocoa powder down the lab-rigged digestive path: lightly processed, moderately processed and Dutch-processed. The more mildly treated the cocoa powder the more it produced beneficial compounds in these experiments. Farhat also noted that likewise some brands of dark chocolate “are low in polyphenols due to the methods of manufacturing.”
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