In the best news I’ve heard all week: It turns out chocolate isn’t just good for our hearts, it’s good for our guts, too. A recent study found that eating cocoa may increase the number of good-for-you bacteria, or probiotics, in the gut, according to The New York Times. And in case you’ve forgotten about Michael Pollan’s passionate ode to bacteria, the lesson he taught us is this: These tiny microbes living inside of our bodies are our BFFs, influencing the health of our immune systems, our weight and even our stress levels.
Here’s how the study worked: Researchers at Louisiana State simulated the human digestive system in glass vessels, with one vessel representing the stomach and small intestine with their digestives enzymes and the other reproducing a large-intestine-like environment complete with gut microbes from human volunteers. Then, scientists added cocoa powder to the stomach vessel and watched it in all of its digestive glory.
What they found was pretty interesting: The stomach and small intestine were able to break down some of the material, but a large amount of the cocoa was left undigested when it reached the colon. Then gut bacteria like lactobacillus broke down more of the cocoa — As the gut microbes digested the cocoa, the number of desirable probiotics in the gut seemed to increase while undesirable bacteria like staphylococcus decreased. Pretty neat, huh?
So feel free to add a handful of cocoa nibs to your morning granola, guilt-free. Science says so. (Just remember: This study was done with cocoa, so don’t expect an over-processed, sugar-loaded Hershey’s bar, with a slight trace of cocoa in it to do you any good.)
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