Here’s some great news for all chocolate lovers—dark chocolate, that is. Dark chocolate is actually a prebiotic!
A form of chocolate was being produced in what is now present-day Mexico as early as 1900 B.C. Cacao beans were harvested, then fermented and roasted before being ground down into a thick paste that was mixed with water, vanilla, honey, chili peppers and other spices. Even with the honey, this earliest chocolatl was quite bitter, nothing at all like what we consume today.
The Olmecs, Mayans, and the Aztecs all consumed a chocolate drink. The Mayans worshipped a god of cacao and considered chocolate to be a food of the gods, reserved for the noble classes. The Aztecs also considered cacao to be divine; they couldn’t grow it in the drier highlands that made up the heart of their territory, so they traded with the Mayans for it. Cacao beans were so valuable, the Aztecs sometimes even used it as currency.
It was the Spanish that sweetened the chocolatl with cane sugar and cinnamon, and from Spain, the love of chocolate spread to France and the rest of the courts of Europe, and now, chocolate is loved and eaten all around the world.
Every time you consume dark chocolate, you’re not only feeding the beneficial bacteria in your gut microbiome, you’re helping to decrease the bad bacteria. Cocoa beans are very high in polyphenolic compounds and studies have shown that the flavonols in dark chocolate may help lower blood pressure and may also have a positive effect on the human metabolism, resulting in a lower Body Mass Index for regular eaters of chocolate.
Chocolate is also good for your heart and even your arteries; our gut bacteria turn chocolate into compounds that reduce inflammation and help keep our hearts healthy and lessen the risk of atherosclerosis. The research found that our gut bacteria actually ferment the chocolate prebiotic fiber, breaking down the flavonols, thereby allowing them to be absorbed into the bloodstream like other nutrients.
When it comes to the best kind of chocolate to eat, darker is better, so look for bar chocolate that’s at least 80%. Even better are cacao nibs (which you can find sold by numerous companies) or pure, raw chocolate. Another way to get the same chocolate prebiotic benefits is to use cacao or cocoa powder in smoothies and puddings. (Tip: cacao is better than cocoa, being far less processed and more pure than cocoa)
So yes – go ahead and have that piece of dark chocolate. But chocolate (and other foods containing prebiotic fiber) alone may not give you the amount of prebiotic fiber you need in your daily diet to keep your gut happy. That’s why I formulated Great Gut’s Extra Strength Prebiotic Fiber and Oligo30™ Premium Prebiotic Fiber Blend to ensure every adult is able to get enough prebiotic fiber into your diet each and every day.
Here’s a great smoothie recipe using cacao, bananas and our prebiotic fiber to really pack a healthy prebiotic punch!
1 large unripe banana
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 scoop of either Extra Strength Prebiotic Fiber or Oligo30™ Premium Prebiotic Fiber Blend
3 tablespoons of your favorite nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
Handful of ice