Eat more Chocolate

The Shocking Reason to Eat More Chocolate (HINT: It’s Not About You)

Dr. Vincent Pedre

Hello, my fellow health-conscious readers! Buckle up, because today we're diving into a delightful secret that'll make your taste buds dance and your gut microbiome do a happy jig. We're talking about the scrumptious world of chocolate. But not just any chocolate…

The Magic of Dark Chocolate and Raw Cacao

I must confess,

I have a sweet tooth.It’s hard for me to pass on the dessert, but alas, I practice self-discipline as often as I can.

But, when it comes to chocolate, that’s another story…

I have a soft spot for vibrant, nutrient-rich foods, and dark chocolate and raw cacao are like rock stars in my gastronomic symphony. There's something about that slightly bitter, earthy note in dark chocolate that can turn a gloomy day into a Willie Wonka chocolate-filled fantasy.

But, hey, it's not just about the flavor; it's about the incredible health benefits hiding inside those cocoa beans.

The thing is, did you know those health benefits wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for your gut bugs? That’s right! Your gut microbiome plays a key role in making dark chocolate a superfood for your body and brain. And it all comes down to the antioxidants in raw cacao.

Unlocking Antioxidants – The Superheroes in Chocolate

Dark chocolate and raw cacao are bursting with antioxidants, those little powerhouses that defend our bodies against free radicals.

Think of antioxidants as the unsung heroes in your health journey, and guess what? They're throwing a grand party in chocolate. These antioxidants are like the guardians of your well-being, ensuring your cells remain youthful and vibrant.

But here's the twist – our gut microbiome plays a superhero's role in converting these antioxidants into a form our bodies can absorb. Yes, that's right! Your gut is the sidekick in this sweet, health-boosting adventure.

Cholate Antioxidants
Image from Freepik

The Gut-Brain Connection – Where Chocolate Meets Mood

Now, let's journey into the fascinating world of the gut-brain connection.
You've probably heard of it – the idea that your gut health influences your brain health. Well, here's where it gets even more intriguing… Your gut and your brain are in constant communication, and what you eat can influence your mood and mental clarity.

A simple piece of dark chocolate has the incredible power to make us smile, but what's the science behind its mood-lifting wonders? Recent research has delved into the emotional effects of daily dark chocolate consumption, revealing some fascinating insights.

The Science Behind Chocolate's Mood-Boosting Magic

Cacao, the source of chocolate, is a veritable pharmacopeia of psychoactive compounds. Endocannabinoids, which are molecules produced by our bodies, play a significant role. Anandamide, often referred to as the "bliss molecule," is responsible for the euphoria we experience during activities like yoga or meditation. Surprisingly, anandamide is also found in cacao, and when you consume chocolate, it interacts with the same endocannabinoid receptors that THC does.

Dark chocolate contains compounds that inhibit the breakdown of anandamide, prolonging its mood-enhancing effects. This is why dark chocolate can make you feel so good.

But there is more to the story…

Anandamide and Your Gut Microbiome (Why They’re Essential for Its Benefits)

While anandamide can interact with cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system (CB1 receptors) and the immune system (CB2 receptors), recent research has suggested that gut bacteria may also play a role in the regulation of anandamide levels and its health benefits.

Here's how gut bacteria are thought to be involved in the health benefits of anandamide:

Anandamide synthesis: Anandamide is synthesized in the body from a precursor molecule called N-arachidonoyl phosphatidylethanolamine (NAPE). Research has shown that certain gut bacteria, such as those from the genus Bacteroides, can produce enzymes that break down NAPE into anandamide precursors, facilitating its synthesis. This suggests that the presence of specific gut bacteria can promote the production of anandamide.

Regulation of endocannabinoid levels: Gut bacteria may influence the levels of anandamide and other endocannabinoids in the body by metabolizing them. These bacteria can produce enzymes that break down endocannabinoids, which can affect their availability and activity in the body.

Gut-brain axis communication: The gut is connected to the brain through a bidirectional communication system known as the gut-brain axis. Gut bacteria produce various bioactive molecules, including short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and neurotransmitters, that can influence brain function and mood. Anandamide, when produced or influenced by gut bacteria, may contribute to this communication system, affecting mood and other aspects of brain function.

Immune regulation: Anandamide can also influence the immune system. Certain gut bacteria can modulate the immune response, and the presence of anandamide may be one of the factors involved in this modulation. A balanced immune system is crucial for overall health.

It's important to note that research in this area is still ongoing, and our understanding of the precise mechanisms by which gut bacteria interact with anandamide and its health benefits is evolving. Additionally, individual variations in gut microbiota composition can influence these interactions, making it a complex and personalized aspect of health.

Terpenes, Terpenes, and More Terpenes

Terpenes, aromatic compounds found in plants, also contribute to chocolate's mood-boosting properties. Terpenes have psychoactive properties and can enhance mood, reduce inflammation, and even open up respiratory pathways. In fact, some of the most prominent terpenes in cannabis, like myrcene, linalool, and ocimene, are also found in cacao. These terpenes, present in dark chocolate, contribute to its unique flavor and aroma.

Xanthines: The Stimulants

Dark chocolate contains xanthines, a class of alkaloids that includes caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline. All three of these stimulants make their way into your body when you consume chocolate. While caffeine is a powerful stimulant and the most widely consumed non-prescription “drug” globally, theobromine, the most abundant xanthine in chocolate, offers a more consistent and jitter-free boost of energy. Theophylline, although in minor amounts, contributes to these effects.

Tryptophan: The Feel-Good Amino Acid

Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is a precursor to serotonin. It influences sleep, helps alleviate depression and anxiety, and boosts emotional well-being. Dark chocolate contains a significant amount of tryptophan, which contributes to that feel-good sensation.

Phenylethylamine: The "Love Drug"

Phenylethylamine (PEA) is another compound found in dark chocolate. It's chemically similar to amphetamine and is naturally produced in our bodies during states of infatuation. This earned PEA the nickname of the "love drug." It's also associated with mood enhancement and happiness.

While the science behind dark chocolate's mood-boosting effects is fascinating, what truly sets dark chocolate apart is its positive impact on the gut-brain connection.

The Chocolate Face-Off: 85% vs. 70% Cocoa

In a unique experiment, two varieties of dark chocolate were put head-to-head, one with 85% cocoa content and the other with 70%. The participants, all in their 20s to 30s, were divided into three groups: those who savored the 85% cocoa chocolate, those who opted for the 70% cocoa, and those who resisted chocolate altogether. This sensory exploration unfolded over three weeks, with researchers carefully monitoring the participants' moods using a specialized scale. 

The results were nothing short of remarkable

The group indulging in 85% cocoa chocolate experienced a significant uplift in their moods. Negative emotions noticeably decreased during the study. However, the same mood enhancement was not observed in the 70% cocoa group.

Diving into the Gut-Brain Connection

Intrigued by the emotional benefits of dark chocolate, researchers looked further into the realm of the gut-brain connection. They wanted to uncover the link between chocolate, gut health, and mood enhancement. Employing advanced sequencing techniques, they examined the intricate world of participants' gut bacteria.

Discoveries from the Gut Microbiome

Their findings added an exciting layer to the narrative. The group that experienced emotional improvements from the 85% cocoa chocolate displayed a higher diversity of gut bacteria. While specific gut bacteria exhibited intriguing changes, the intricate details aren't essential here. What matters is the connection they unveiled. As particular types of beneficial gut bacteria thrived, participants felt happier and less negative.

Making the Connection: Chocolate, Gut, and Mood

Drawing a line between the dots, the researchers unearthed a fascinating correlation. The shifts in participants' negative moods were directly tied to specific gut bacteria. In simpler terms, the more these particular gut bacteria flourished, the happier and less negative the participants felt.

Dark Chocolate's Superpower: A Happy Gut

In essence, this study hinted at dark chocolate's remarkable superpower. It appears to function as a prebiotic, a substance that nurtures and supports good gut bacteria. By doing so, it may substantially enhance our emotional well-being. This research underscores the incredible and multifaceted nature of food and its profound impact on our mood. It also emphasizes the intricate communication between our gut and brain and how something as simple as dark chocolate can be the key to happiness.

The Gut-Brain Connection Through Chocolate

The antioxidants and mood-enhancing compounds in dark chocolate and raw cacao can positively influence your brain through your gut. So, next time you savor a piece of dark chocolate, know that it's not just a treat for your taste buds; it's a mood-lifter for your brain and prebiotic for your good gut bugs.

Keep Your Gut Bacteria Happy, and They’ll Keep You Happy

The secret to this delightful connection lies in the happiness of your gut bacteria. A joyful and diverse microbiome is the cornerstone of good health, and dark chocolate contributes to this happiness by acting as a prebiotic for your beneficial gut companions.

Think of dark chocolate as a small thank-you note to your gut buddies, a gesture that can brighten your mood and overall well-being.

How About Milk Chocolate?

While we've delved into the world of dark chocolate and its mood-boosting magic, it's crucial to address a common question: what about milk chocolate? Is it as beneficial for your gut and overall well-being?

The short answer is no, milk chocolate doesn't offer the same advantages for your gut health and mood as dark chocolate does, particularly if you have lactose intolerance or dairy sensitivity. Not to mention, most milk chocolates are riddled with sugar, which is going to give you a mood high then an inevitable crash. 

Here's more about why.

The Dairy Dilemma: Lactose and Gut Health

Milk chocolate, as the name implies, contains milk solids, which are rich in lactose and diary proteins. Lactose is a natural sugar present in milk and dairy products, and it's one of the primary components that sets milk chocolate apart from its darker counterpart.

For individuals with lactose intolerance or dairy sensitivity, consuming milk chocolate can lead to a series of unpleasant digestive symptoms. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body lacks an adequate amount of lactase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose. As a result, undigested lactose reaches the colon, where it ferments, leading to discomfort, gas, and diarrhea.

So the best chocolates to eat, especially for those concerned about their gut health, are dark chocolate and raw cacao. They provide all the mood-boosting magic without the lactose-related issues often associated with milk chocolate.

How Dark is Dark Enough?

When we talk about dark chocolate, we're delving into the world of cocoa concentrations. You've probably noticed labels that boast 70%, 85%, or even 90% cocoa content. But what's the significance of these percentages, and does the darkness of your chocolate really matter?

Dark Chocolate
Image from Freepik

Chasing the Perfect Darkness

The answer, my chocolate-loving friend, lies in the depth of flavor and the richness of health benefits. You see, the cocoa content is essentially the measure of how much cocoa mass is in your chocolate. The rest is typically made up of ingredients like sugar, milk, or various flavorings. The Bitter Truth: Dark is Better

Now, here's where it gets interesting – the darker the chocolate, the more cocoa it contains, which means less room for other, often less healthy ingredients. This results in a chocolate that's less sweet and, let's be honest, a bit more bitter on the taste buds. While this might not win a popularity contest among your taste receptors, it's a winning formula for your gut microbiome.

Rich in Antioxidants

Dark chocolate is a rich source of antioxidants, particularly flavonoids. These compounds have been linked to numerous health benefits, from reducing inflammation to improving heart health. But it's the dark chocolate's cocoa concentration that makes all the difference.

The Sweet Spot: The 70-90% Range

In the world of dark chocolate, the sweet spot for health-conscious individuals tends to be in the range of 70% to 90% cocoa content. In this realm, the chocolate is jam-packed with cocoa goodness while keeping sugar and milk to a minimum.

Balancing Act

Now, this isn't to say you should go out and start nibbling on 90% cocoa chocolate bars if you've never ventured past the 50% mark. It's an acquired taste, for sure. Dark chocolate, especially the really dark stuff, isn't for everyone, but it can be a tasty and rewarding journey to embark upon.

As you delve into the 70% and above cocoa range, you'll unlock a plethora of health benefits, including:

Heart Health: Dark chocolate may contribute to lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease.

Antioxidant Boost: The higher the cocoa content, the more antioxidants you'll enjoy, which combat oxidative stress and inflammation.

Blood Sugar Regulation: Dark chocolate can help with better insulin sensitivity, supporting balanced blood sugar levels.

Gut Microbiome Love: The minimal sugar content in dark chocolate means less disruption to your gut's delicate balance, promoting a healthier microbiome.

Mood Enhancement: As seen in the previous article, dark chocolate can brighten your mood through its interaction with your gut-brain axis.

The Sweet Ending and a Special Offer

Now, it wouldn't be fair to tantalize your taste buds without a special offer. I'm thrilled to introduce our newly reformulated Nourish Chocolate flavor protein powder. It's like a health-infused party in your mouth, and it's waiting for you to join in.

Can you eat your chocolate and have a thin waist, too?!?

Harvard researchers say… YES!!!

When Harvard researchers wondered if chocolate in the morning would reduce calorie intake over the rest of the day, the answer was an astounding… AFFIRMATIVE!!

It seems that eating chocolate early in the day reduces the desire for more food. Probably the opposite of what you thought, right???

But it can’t be a sugar-laden chocolate bar…

Why not then start the day with a healthy source of chocolate, along with conjugated linoleic acid for fat-burning and creatine for muscle-building in a nutrient-packed, plant-powered breakfast meal replacement powder?

That’s what we did with Nourish Chocolate protein powder, and the results are delicious!

If you're eager to take your gut health to the next level and enjoy a guilt-free chocolatey treat along the way, this could be your golden ticket to wellness. I’m all about having pleasures I can enjoy without the guilt.

Join the Chocolate Revolution – Let's Indulge Responsibly

So, I’m calling you to join the chocolate revolution with your gut health in mind. Dark chocolate and raw cacao are more than just treats; they're your partners in health and happiness (sorry, milk chocolate — you just don’t cut it!). Let's indulge responsibly, laugh at life's little quirks, and keep those gut bacteria grinning.

Join me in this delightful journey toward a healthier, happier you, one chocolate square at a time. After all, I had you at... happy gut!

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