I love chocolate. I love its earthy bitterness, it’s ability to be used in sweet and savory dishes, and, like many of you out there, I love a good dark chocolate truffle. So you can be sure any news about chocolate catches my eye. Past research that I've found intriguing includes the studies showing that chocolate lowers stress levels, that chocolate consumers are slimmer, and that chocolate has twice the amount of antioxidants as red wine. 

Research presented at the American Chemical Society illuminates some of the mystery of how chocolate is used by the body for good. In this specific study, researchers tested three cocoa powders using equipment that mimicked human digestion in the stomach. Then the cocoa powder was fermented using human fecal matter to mimic the human colon (this is where the research becomes decidedly unromantic.)

What they found was this:

Good microbes in your digestive system love chocolate just as much as you do! Bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria have a feast with chocolate, as they ferment and grow it. This process then produces anti-inflammatory compounds, which are then absorbed into the body and can help protect your cardiovascular system, and even reduce your long-term risk of having a stroke.

John Finely, Ph.D., who led the study, recommends eating prebiotics with cocoa powder because they help build up the good bacteria in your gut and reduce the populations of bad bacteria. This allows you to get the full benefit of chocolate. Prebiotics are in carbohydrate-rich foods such as whole grains, onions and garlic. Finely also said that chocolate combined with antioxidant-rich whole fruits such as pomegranates and acai could have even more health benefits for us. 

Note that this study was done using non-sweetened cocoa powder. To mimic the benefits, use unsweetened cocoa powder or very dark chocolate. 

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