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The Surprising Reason Chocolate is SO Healthy!

The Surprising Reason Chocolate is SO Darn Healthy

Chocolate is something of a miracle food — it can ease depression, boost circulation, lower blood pressure, and even help you lose weight. In a strange correlation, it could even make you more likely to win a Nobel Prize! To think, all of this bang in one, tiny, delectable package. But, why? How do the compounds in chocolate react in our bodies to produce such dramatic results? The answer lies within you.

In keeping with the wave of interest in our microbiomes and their effect on our health, recent research shows that the good bacteria in our stomachs, like Bifidobacterium, actually thrive on chocolate. That’s right, your good bacteria love chocolate just as much as you do. Within these bacteria, the chocolate gets fermented and converted into various, anti-inflammatory compounds. These anti-inflammatories then travel throughout the body, spreading their good cheer, so to speak, to the heart, brain, blood, and beyond.

These findings, unveiled at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society, come from research associated with the cocoa solids — cocoa powder — so no sugar was present (which feeds less desirable gut dwellers). The powder is known to contain several antioxidants, known as polyphenols, and a bit of fiber — which keeps it moving along when digested. All of this makes bitter cocoa an ideal fuel for the hungry, friendly bacteria in your digestive system — and you can be sure they will pass on the benefits to you. Their feast can result in higher endorphins, less depression, and enhanced heart health, among countless other benefits, for you. A couple of teaspoons of cocoa powder in your smoothie might be just the trick to balance out health and deliciousness for a perfect breakfast!

Remember, not all chocolate is created equal. If you opt for a chocolate bar, be sure it is dark, as in 85% or greater. Too much sugar could negate the benefits. If that’s too bitter for your taste, add a small dollop of raw honey to very dark chocolate for a double-whammy of health benefits and palatable sweetness.

Without your microcosm of gut bacteria, chocolate might not pose nearly as many benefits to your health. Keep your gut balanced with probiotics and a balanced diet — and make sure to give your micro-critter friends a big thank-you with a health-boosting treat of dark chocolate once in a while.

( Leesa recommends Vivani organic 85% dark choclate)

By Jordyn Cormier

Jordyn Cormier

Jordyn is a choreographer, freelance writer, and an avid outdoors woman. Having received her B.F.A. in Contemporary Dance from the Boston Conservatory, she is passionate about maintaining a healthy body, mind, and soul through food and fitness. A lover of adventure, Jordyn can often be found hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, and making herself at home in the backcountry! Check out what else Jordyn has been up to at


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Your Belly Button is Like a Rainforest, and Here’s Why

Your Belly Button is Like a Rainforest, and Here’s Why

After decades of exploring the wealth of biodiversity found in some  of the  planet’s remotest ecosystems, from high atop the forest canopy,  to down deep  within the ocean’s murky depths, scientists have now turned  their attention to  one of the darkest, most foreboding places of all —  your belly button!

Sure, that little built-in lint trap might not seem so terribly interesting,  aside from being a battle scar  from the early days of our infantile  independence. But for a team of  researchers, lead by Dr. Robert Dunn, delving  into the human belly  button is actually like visiting a unknown world. And they  should know;  they’ve bravely participated in dozens of harrowing navel  expeditions in  search of new life.

That is to say, they’ve swabbed and cultured  bacteria samples from 60  participants across the U.S. — discovering in  the process more than 2,000  distinct species, some of which are quite  uncommon.

“As we looked at belly buttons we saw a terrible, yawning, richness of life,” writes Dr. Dunn.  “The average belly button hosted 50 or so  species and across belly  buttons we found thousands of species (and as we  sample more belly  buttons, we continue to find more species). The vast majority  of these  species are rare. Right away something struck an ecological chord. The  belly buttons reminded me of rain forests.”

Interestingly enough,  despite the broadness of their sampling, Dunn and his  team found that  the commonest species found were present in around 70 percent  of belly  buttons tested — though no one bacteria was present in all of  them.

“Although  it remains difficult to predict which species of bacteria might be  found on a particular human, predicting which species are most frequent  (or  rare) seems more straightforward, at least for those species living  in belly  buttons,” researchers write in their study, appearing in the  journal PLOS ONE.

What  Dunn and his team failed to uncover, however, was why each person’s   navel seems to be so distinct — conceding: “what we cannot seem to  account for  is which species are present in any particular belly  button.”

But that should come as no surprise; scientists have  really only begun to  poke around the belly button just recently and  there’s certainly far more to  learn.

“The belly button is one of the habitats closest to us, and yet it remains  relatively unexplored.”

Written by Stephen Messenger

This post was originally published by TreeHugger

Photo: unclefuz/flickr


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