Cacao: the fuel to good gut health?

January 11, 2017

Cacao: the fuel to good gut health?

By Nutritionist, Samantha Gemmell

As we learn more about the human body, the focus turns to the gut. Now believed to be the source of most illnesses, the digestive system is the starting point for healing. Many practitioners prescribe probiotics to re-populate the gut – but is that enough?

What are probiotics, you ask?

Probiotics are 'good' micro-organisms, generally bacteria. Probiotics can be found everywhere – on our skin, in our digestive tract, and other more delicate areas. They are also found in many raw fermented products such as yoghurt and pickled vegetables.

Humans have trillions of bacteria in the colonies throughout our bodies. These bacteria help keep us healthy in dozens of ways, some of which we don't even understand yet. However, with the rise of anti-bacterial products and overuse of antibiotics, many of us are killing our good bacteria without even knowing it.

The benefit of (good) bacteria

Think that good bacteria can only help with bloating? Think again. Research shows that increasing probiotics could have dozens of health benefits, including:

  • Weight management
  • Improving mood and mental health
  • Boosting low immunity
  • Regulating immunity in auto-immune conditions
  • Skin health, including acne
  • Pain and inflammation
  • Digestion of food
  • Aiding detoxification pathways
  • Correcting nutrient deficiencies
  • Protection from pathogens

The list goes on. Basically, if there's a health issue out there, it may be alleviated by the right bacteria.

Probiotics best friend

However, probiotics are only half of the equation. You can't just dump a bunch of bacteria into your digestive tract and expect them to magically fix you overnight!

That's where prebiotics come into play. Prebiotics are essentially what probiotics need so that they can do their job.

Prebiotics are a fuel of sorts for the probiotics to feed on. They are usually some type of fermentable fibre, found in plant foods such as garlic.

In order to get the most out of your probiotic foods and supplements, and heal your gut, you need prebiotics. But how can you get that in an easy and tasty form?

Cacao's prebiotic properties

Around here, we think cacao is pretty much the answer to everything. New research shows that we're right – at least when it comes to a happy tummy!

Cacao has been shown to have prebiotic activity, helping to fuel good bacteria and rebalance digestive health. It helps bacteria to ferment away and produce health-giving substances such as short-chain fatty acids.

These properties are likely due to the presence of dietary fibres in cacao. These fibres cannot be digested by our digestive tract, but instead are fermented by the good bacteria to fuel their colonies.

How to harness its powerful properties

The best way to put this all together is to:

  • Find a probiotic, or good bacteria source that you can stick to. For some people, fermented food is the bomb, for others, supplements are better. If you do choose to take a supplement, make sure you're not wasting your money. We always recommend consulting your nutritionist about finding a strain that will help with your individual concerns.
  • Get cacao into your daily diet! Chuck a teaspoon into your morning smoothie, or sprinkle it over your home-made ice-cream for dessert. Make sure your cacao has a high fibre content – more processed 'cocoa powders' may have a lower percentage so we always opt for raw cacao to reap the best benefits.
  • Add in other prebiotics. We can't always add cacao to everything (well, that's debatable!). So make sure you up your intake of other good prebiotic foods too. Top contenders include garlic, onion, leek, beetroot, legumes and nuts.
Did you know cacao could help give you a happy gut? What are your favourite ways to eat the chocolatey good stuff?

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