There is much talk around the importance of incorporating probiotics into our diet to promote gut health, but they are in fact only half of the equation. The other part of the puzzle are prebiotics.
What are they?
Prebiotics are what probiotics need to do their job, acting as fuel for the probiotics to feed on. Think of probiotics as the flowers in the garden and prebiotics as the fertiliser, helping them to grow and flourish. Probiotics are live bacteria (the tenants) whilst prebiotics are dietary fibre (the home). The environment inside your gut is called the Microbiome and the prebiotic and probiotic functioning in this environment has far reaching consequences to physical and psychological health.
What does cacao have to do with this?
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, which fend off harmful microbes and reinforce the gut barrier against antigens and invaders.
Its prebiotics properties are due to the presence of dietary fibres in Cacao. These fibres pass undigested through our digestive tract to the large intestine where our probiotics use it as fuel to grow their populations and support our health.
Research showed that volunteers who consumed a high-flavanol cocoa for four weeks experienced significant increases in their gut populations of probiotics Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.
This doesn’t mean you should reach straight for a chocolate bar. Instead choose a high quality cacao product. Not all cacao products are the same. Choosing a raw cacao increases the nutritional benefit as the processing heat does not exceed the temperature that would diminish the vitamin, mineral and flavonoid content. Cacao in its natural state can have a bitter taste so we blended a Vegan Hot Chocolate with coconut blossom and organic lucuma to sweeten the pill. Because ultimately Cacao is proving to be a functional health food.
Tzounis, X., Rodriguez-Mateos, A., Vulevic, J., Gibson, G. R., Kwik-Uribe, C., & Spencer, J. P. (2011). Prebiotic evaluation of cocoa-derived flavanols in healthy humans by using a randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover intervention study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 93(1), 62-72. doi:10.3945/ajcn.110.000075