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This Type Of Chocolate Will Improve Your Gut and Mood, New Study Says

Eating a small square of this chocolate on a daily basis will benefit your body!

For any nerdy Potterheads out there, you are likely very familiar with the scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where Professor Lupin gives Harry a piece of chocolate after coming across a frightening dementor. "Eat it," he said. "You'll feel better."

But is there even science behind the claim? Well, according to a recent study published by The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, eating chocolate to brighten your mood is actually sound advice—and surprisingly very healthy for you.

In a randomized control study with adults ranging in age from 20 to 30 years old, it was determined that dark chocolate with 85% cocoa is linked to a better mood and a healthier gut. The trial split into two groups based on cocoa content—one group eating dark chocolate with 70% cocoa, the other with 85%—and consumed their prescribed chocolate every day over a three-week period. At the end of the trial, participants were measured using a Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), which is able to track weekly emotional changes in clients. The group that consumed 85% dark chocolate saw a drop in "negative affect" from the PANAS, compared to the 70% group.

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Dark chocolate squares
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Researchers of the study even took it a step further by evaluating the mood-altering effects of dark chocolate and how it is associated with the gut microbiota.

For context, gut health and mental health have been linked in multiple studies. According to Harvard Health, eating foods that contain chemical additives and are ultra-processed can negatively affect the healthy bacteria in your gut, increase your risk of disease, and negatively affect your mood. On the contrary, a study in Molecular Psychiatry was able to link the consumption of a healthy diet and protection against depression—like a traditional Mediterranean diet, which is pro-inflammatory and full of gut-healthy foods.

In order to maintain a healthy gut, a diet must contain a beneficial amount of prebiotic and probiotic foods. Prebiotic foods come in the form of dietary fiber, which feeds the "friendly" bacteria in your gut and keeps your digestive system thriving. Probiotic foods are the live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your digestive system and can help improve and restore your gut flora (the bacteria that lives in your digestive tracts).

Dark chocolate serves as a prebiotic in the gut, given that it is high in fiber. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dark chocolate between 70% and 85% contains 11 grams of fiber for a 101-gram bar of chocolate (around 3.5 ounces). The higher percentage of cocoa in a bar the higher the fiber content—and the more prebiotic goodness for your gut flora to feed on.

So it's true—eat a bit of dark chocolate if you're in an odd mood and want something sweet. You'll feel better.

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Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a Deputy Editor at Eat This, Not That!, with a main focus on food coverage, nutrition, and recipe development. Read more