The short answer is YES, especially when we are talking about dark chocolate. There are many health benefits attributed to cocoa including the lowering of cholesterol levels, slowing down cognitive decline, and keeping the heart healthy [1]. We are only able to absorb some of the nutrients in chocolate and because of this we need our gut microbiome to break down complex molecules into smaller components that are much easier to process by our body. Once the cocoa and the gut microbes meet, the microbes ferment the compounds of the chocolate, including fiber. When the fiber in dark chocolate is fermented, it creates anti-inflammatory compounds including antioxidants that our body can absorb into the bloodstream to benefit many organ systems, including the gut [1,2]. In fact, there is evidence that the compounds produced by gut fermentation of dark chocolate can have benefits to your mood and play an important role in the gut-brain axis [3]. In short, our gut microbes allow us to make full use of the many health-promoting molecules in cocoa. Additionally, the effect of cocoa on the gut microbial ecosystem mimics the effect of prebiotics and probiotics on this system which benefits the health of the gut, and in turn, has an even greater effect on our overall health.

Choosing the Best Chocolate for Your Gut Health

There are a number of factors to look for when choosing the best chocolate for your gut health. We should focus on dark chocolate for gut health and not all types of dark chocolate are going to be good for your gut. In fact, many dark chocolate squares are loaded with additives and sweetened with sugar so make sure to read your labels. If dark chocolate is made with lower amounts of cocoa or contains added artificial sweeteners, it won’t be as beneficial for your gut either, in fact, any artificial sweeteners can be harmful for your gut. Additionally, stay away from dark chocolates that are accompanied by artificial fruit flavors like raspberry, orange, blueberry, pomegranate, etc. Many fruit-flavored chocolates are harmful to your gut. Real fruit like acai or pomegranate that’s dipped in healthy dark chocolate can be a great combo for gut and overall health.

Milk chocolate is loaded with tons of sugar and milk which aren’t the best for gut health. This type of chocolate doesn’t have the same amount of antioxidants that healthy dark chocolate does because it has a decreased amount of cocoa which is the gut-healthy part of dark chocolate. In short, stay away from milk chocolates if you’re trying to improve your gut health.

Look for dark chocolate with the following features:

  • Made with raw, unsweetened cocoa powder
  • At least 70% cocoa
  • Low in sugar and NO artificial sweeteners
  • Made with cocoa butter or coconut oil (NOT soybean or vegetable oil and NO trans fats)
  • Organic
  • Non-GMO

Final Thoughts

Consumed in moderation, studies show that chocolate may promote friendly gut bacteria, and, by extension, a healthy gut, keeping inflammation at bay. For your body to fully take advantage of dark chocolate’s prebiotic benefits, it has to be eaten regularly. So, eating small amounts of quality dark chocolate on a regular basis and filling the rest of your day with plenty of other prebiotics and probiotics will help promote a healthy gut. However, as with any food, individual responses may vary, and it’s essential to listen to your body and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or underlying digestive or health conditions.


[1] Hayek N. (2013). Chocolate, gut microbiota, and human health. Frontiers in pharmacology, 4, 11.


[3] Shin, J. H., Kim, C. S., Cha, L., Kim, S., Lee, S., Chae, S., Chun, W. Y., & Shin, D. M. (2022). Consumption of 85% cocoa dark chocolate improves mood in association with gut microbial changes in healthy adults: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 99, 108854.