It may taste sweet and euphoric, but is hot chocolate good for you? We drill down scientific evidence to find out if chocolate indulgence is truly guiltless.
Can Delicious Hot Chocolate Be Guilt-Free?
Is Hot Chocolate Good for You?
Let’s get one thing straight: it’s the hot dark chocolate we’re talking about. It is not the instant hot chocolate mix products on the nearby grocery shelves.
Researchers throughout the years have studied the health benefits of dark chocolate:
- Hot dark cocoa is a preferred winter drink over green tea and red wine. It is because of its richer antioxidant content.
- Flavanols in cocoa offer skin protection against UV rays from the sun.
- Dark chocolate may improve insulin sensitivity and blood pressure in healthy subjects.
- The flavonoids in cocoa butter and dark chocolate may have a platelet aggregating effect. For people with thromboembolic heart conditions, it may not be advisable.
Hot Cocoa as a Prebiotic for the Microbiome
Prebiotic Definition: It is a type of indigestible fiber that serves as food for the probiotics or microorganisms in the gut. These microorganisms may be bacteria or fungi.
The human gut is home to trillions of fungi and bacteria. The microbiome in your gut supports metabolism, immunity, and hormone production. They need to feed for them to grow and multiply. It is the only way they can balance out the harmful microorganisms we ingest and absorb from our environment.
Prebiotics from plant-based foods provide needed gut flora nourishment. Here’s how cocoa helps the gut microbiome:
- Flavanol-enriched cocoa can increase the abundance of good bacteria (like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria), and other microbial metabolites, in the proximal colon.
- The fiber of cocoa beans helps improve lower low-density lipoprotein (aka bad cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein (aka good cholesterol) ratio by increasing fecal bulk.
- Cacao flavanols and metabolites have bioactive properties. These compounds fight the metabolic and inflammatory gut conditions. They also help prevent lipid peroxidation or the process in which free radicals damage the gut cell membrane.
- The smell of hot chocolate drink suppresses the secretion of ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
- Polyphenol-enriched cocoa extract may inhibit ulcerative colitis caused by dextran sulfate sodium (DSS).
What’s the Recommended Daily Intake for Dark Chocolate?
The dark chocolate manufacturers rarely declare the correct flavanols content in their products, which makes it difficult to determine how much dark chocolate a person should consume daily.
On average, clinical studies use 20-30 grams of dark chocolate per day on their trials to see significant results.
For some, eating daily chocolate bars or drinking hot chocolate is not possible. You can try supplementing with prebiotics and probiotics.
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum and his team formulated microbiome-enhancing supplements you can add to your diet:
- Nourish Regimen puts together probiotics and prebiotics. This supplement helps to optimize the bacteria and fungi in the microbiome.
- Immunity Probiotic Supplement boosts the body’s immune performance. It contains vitamin C, B. breve, L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, S. boulardii, and amylase.
- Colon Cleanser is an herbal blend that helps flush away toxins in the gut for a fresh start.
- Organic Super Greens is a probiotic derived from vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
Choosing the Best Hot Chocolate for Your Gut Microbiota
Look for raw and real chocolate bars, powders, or drinks witg:
- High flavanol content
- 70% cocoa
- Low to no sugar
- No artificial additives, especially sweeteners
- Cocoa butter or coconut oil
- No gluten
A moderate intake of any kind of chocolate is key in maintaining the body’s homeostasis.
To learn more about the digestive wellness, check out Dr. Ghannoum’s book, Total Gut Balance.
How do you like your chocolate? Dark? Hot? Bar? Drink? Powder? Chips? Share your preference with us and tell us why in the comments below!