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The health benefits of chocolate

By Dhruv Gupta
October 28, 2014 15:32 IST
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Almost every day, there is some article on how chocolate is really beneficial for health. Some studies claim that it can improve heart health; some claim that it helps you lose weight, and it’s quite obvious that eating chocolate makes you happier!

The problem with those claims is that people may eat more chocolate, which really is a lot of fat and sugar combined with some cocoa, which is going to make you gain weight, not make your heart healthier, but it may still make you happier when you eat it.

Of course, not all chocolates are made equal.

The rich content of cocoa in chocolates is actually the real ingredient that makes you healthy. It also contains flavonoids which are supposed to improve your health, but it’s not widely known how.

Recent research at Louisiana State University has shown what really happens when you eat dark chocolate, by simulating the human digestive system.

Whenever you eat a piece or so of chocolate, the stomach and the small intestine breaks it down to absorb some of the cocoa. While many of the flavonoids, identified in chocolate get digested here, plenty of undigested cocoa matter still remains in the system.

Bacteria in the gut breaks down this remaining cocoa matter further into ‘metabolites’, which are small enough to be absorbed by the bloodstream, and reduce cardiac inflammation. (That’s how cocoa/dark chocolate improves heart health).

Further, the lastly undigested cocoa matter (mostly fibre), begins to ferment, thus, releasing substances that improve cholesterol levels. The gut microbes that digested the cocoa were desirable pro-biotics. Their numbers appeared to increase after the introduction of cocoa, while less desirable microbes declined in number.

So cocoa not only improves heart health, it can also improve your digestion through its pro-biotic properties, which is the most important process in your body. There have been plenty of studies showing how pro-biotic foods actually improve digestion, help regulate weight, and are even associated with improved mental health.

To get these benefits, you could either eat dark chocolate, or better yet, just add some cocoa to your smoothie, yoghurt (Also read: The many health benefits of dahi) or breakfast cereal!

Photograph: Lotus Caroll/Creative Commons

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Dhruv Gupta