Upping your cocoa intake may promote the growth of probiotics, beneficial bacteria shown to stimulate your immune system and enhance gut health. In a recent study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that certain antioxidants in cocoa may act as prebiotics (non-digestible substances that serve as an energy source for probiotics and help the so-called "friendly bacteria" to thrive).
For the study, 22 healthy subjects drank either an antioxidant-rich or antioxidant-poor cocoa drink every day for four weeks. Study results showed that daily consumption of the antioxidant-rich drink significantly increased the participants' counts of probiotic bacteria. The antioxidant-rich drink also appeared to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.