Chocolate and your Mitochondria


You've heard about some of the health benefits of chocolate. It contains a wide range of minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and theobromine (the substance that will harm dogs, but acts as a mild stimulant for people). But did you know there's a compound in chocolate that actually helps our mitochondria reproduce?

Why is this important? Well, the energy that drives everything that happens in our bodies, from our sympathetic nervous system to our higher thoughts and cognition (and everything in between), is produced by the tiny organelles in our cells called mitochondria. Mitochondrial death, and thus cell death, is exactly why we meet our untimely demise. Typically, to produce more mitochondria the body has to be exposed to strenuous exercise, or extreme calorie restriction. But a compound known as pyrroloquinoline quinone, or PQQ, can actually stimulate the growth of new mitochondria.


Pyrroloquinoline quinone, or PQQ, is the name of a quinone that animals can not produce on their own, thus making it essential to acquire from food. In fact, mice that were fed a diet devoid of PQQ had impaired reproductive and immune function, and their skin became thin and fragile.

PQQ offers multiple physiological benefits, including:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Mitochondria bio-genesis
  • Vitamin co-factor
  • Nerve protection and re-growth
  • Nueroprotectant
  • Collagen production

We naturally obtain PQQ through our food, and guess which food (that has been analyzed thus far) has the highest PQQ content? Cocoa Powder!

PQQ Chart.jpg

Exciting stuff, right? Here's the deal though; Oreo cookies do not count as "healthy" chocolate. Neither do M&M's, or chocolate Easter bunnies, nor Swiss Miss Cocoa or Cocoa Puffs. Dark chocolate is the key, and the lower the sugar content the better. 85% or higher cocoa content is your best bet, and one of my favorite 85% chocolate bars is Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate Bar. For a low sugar, high fiber chocolate bar it's delicious, not bitter like you would expect a super dark chocolate bar to be.

There are other ways to incorporate cocoa into your diet without added sugar. Add a tablespoon into a smoothie sweetened only with fruit. Or try a savory dish that incorporates cocoa, like chili,  a rub for meat, or a soup.

Give your mitochondria a boost, and have some chocolate!