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The action of these antioxidant substances is complex and poorly understood. Each substance has a specific action, but it is in combination that antioxidants appear most powerful. Attempts to mimic their effects with supplements have been largely unsuccessful; it seems nature remains smarter than mankind when it comes to antioxidants. Part of the reason for this seems to be bioavailability: Your body “knows” how to use natural antioxidants; it does not know how to use the lab-made versions.
A study conducted at the University of Oslo in Norway compiled 3,100 food items using the FRAP assay method of measurement, which extracts the antioxidant value of foods and beverages with the scale of millimoles/100 grams. Millimoles are 1/1000 of a mole (a unit of measurement that allows the conversion between atoms/molecules and grams). Using this measurement, antioxidant values are compared on a scale. The FRAP assay is said to be an inexpensive and easy way to measure antioxidant content.
Our results show large variations both between as well as within each food category; all of the food categories contain products almost devoid of antioxidants (Table (Table1).1). Please refer to Additional file 1, the Antioxidant Food Table, for the FRAP results on all 3139 products analyzed. The categories "Spices and herbs", "Herbal/traditional plant medicine" and "Vitamin and dietary supplements" include the most antioxidant rich products analyzed in the study. The categories "Berries and berry products", "Fruit and fruit juices", "Nuts and seeds", "Breakfast Cereals", "Chocolate and sweets", "Beverages" and "Vegetables and vegetable products" include most of the common foods and beverages which have medium to high antioxidant values (Table (Table1).1). We find that plant-based foods are generally higher in antioxidant content than animal-based and mixed food products, with median antioxidant values of 0.88, 0.10 and 0.31 mmol/100 g, respectively (Table (Table1).1). Furthermore, the 75th percentile of plant-based foods is 4.11 mmol/100 g compared to 0.21 and 0.68 mmol/100 g for animal-based and mixed foods, respectively. The high mean value of plant-based foods is due to a minority of products with very high antioxidant values, found among the plant medicines, spices and herbs. In the following, summarized results from the 24 categories are presented.
Many foods have way more sugar than you realize. The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines say no more than 10 percent of your calories should come from added sugar—for a 2,000 calorie diet that’s 200. The American Heart Association is stricter, with a limit of 100 calories for women and 150 for men. “The term ‘added sugars’ indicates sugars that are added to processed and prepared foods, as well as sugars added at the time of consumption,” says Dr. Saltzman. “Most research focuses on these added sugars as potentially harmful.” For example, if you have a Milky Way, which contains 31 grams (124 calories) of added sugar, you’re practically at your limit already. Bottom line? Read nutrition labels to see how much you’re getting. Next, read up on the 40 sneaky names for sugar you may not recognize.
Obviously, not all chocolate is created equal. To get the most benefits associated with dark chocolate, you want to steer clear of any of the candy bar varieties (even if they are “gluten-free” or “Paleo”) and be sure to choose a bar that contains at least a 75 percent cacao content. This will ensure there are minimal added sugars, so you get the bittersweet goodness without the damaging effects of sugar.
An influx of sugar into the bloodstream upsets the body's blood-sugar balance, triggering the release of insulin, which the body uses to keep blood-sugar at a constant and safe level. Insulin also promotes the storage of fat, so that when you eat sweets high in sugar, you're making way for rapid weight gain and elevated triglyceride levels, both of which have been linked to cardiovascular disease. Complex carbohydrates tend to be absorbed more slowly, lessening the impact on blood-sugar levels.
Cherries have been touted as the new wonder fruit, and based on their antioxidant content we can see why! Cherries are rich in the flavonoids, isoqueritrin and queritrin, which act as antioxidants and work to eliminate byproducts of oxidative stress, therefore slowing down the aging process. Cherries are also loaded with Queritrin, a flavonoid believed to be one of the most potent anticancer agents.
Dark chocolate contains 50-90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, whereas milk chocolate contains anywhere from 10-50% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk in some form, and sugar. Though dark chocolate should not contain milk, there may be traces of milk from cross-contamination during processing, as the same machinery is often used to produce milk and dark chocolate. Lower quality chocolates may also add butter fat, vegetable oils, or artificial colors or flavors. White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids and is made simply of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk.
Excessive sugar consumption can cause long-term damage to skin proteins, collagen and elastin, leading to premature wrinkles and ageing. Too much sugar could also contribute to an imbalance of the female menstrual hormones which could result in acne along the jaw line. Sugar is also the favourite food of less desirable gut bacteria and yeast, and consuming too much could lead to an imbalanced gut flora and inflammation in the body, typically seen in skin conditions such as eczema.
But since those antioxidants come with a generous portion of sugar, milk, and butter, chowing down on chocolate isn't an excuse to skip your workout. Chocolate and exercise actually work surprisingly well together: Another recent study, out of Australia this time, showed that eating chocolate high in healthy antioxidants reduced the blood pressure-raising effects of exercise on overweight individuals. So go ahead and reward yourself. A chocolate bar has five times the flavonoids of an apple, after all.
All types of eggplant are rich in bitter chlorogenic acid, which protects against the buildup of heart-threatening plaque in artery walls (and fights cancer, too!), say USDA scientists in Beltsville, Maryland. In lab studies, eggplant lowered cholesterol and helped artery walls relax, which can cut your risk of high blood pressure. Here are some more foods that can help lower your blood pressure.
Your body needs some sugar for energy, but the rest is stored as fat. Not shockingly, sugar’s relationship to weight gain affects your health. “In a number of studies, added sugars have been associated with weight gain and obesity, which in turn leads to increased risk of type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Saltzman says. Why this happens is complicated, but may have to do with low-grade inflammation caused by obesity as well as insulin resistance, he says. In addition, “consumption of [added sugar] has also been linked to increased waist circumference [a.k.a. belly fat], an independent risk factor for heart disease,” Dr. Malik says. Plus, make sure you know the 25 ways sugar can make you sick.
A total of 278 fruits and fruit products and 303 vegetables and vegetable products were included in the database. In the analyzed vegetables, antioxidant content varied from 0.0 mmol/100 g in blanched celery to 48.1 mmol/100 g in dried and crushed leaves of the African baobab tree. In fruits, procured in 8 different countries, the antioxidant content varies from 0.02 mmol/100 g for watermelon to 55.5 mmol/100 g in the yellow pith of Spanish pomegranate. Examples of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables were dried apples, flour made of okra, artichokes, lemon skin, dried plums, dried apricots, curly kale, red and green chili and prunes (Table (Table4).4). Examples of fruit and vegetables in the medium antioxidant range were dried dates, dried mango, black and green olives, red cabbage, red beets, paprika, guava and plums.
According to Harvard University, a systolic pressure under 120 (the first number) and a diastolic pressure under 80 (the second number) is considered normal. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is indicated by a systolic pressure of 140 or higher and/or a diastolic pressure of 90 or higher. Before and during the challenge Herbert had normal numbers and there was no reason for concern.
Due to the higher cocoa content, dark chocolate has a much richer flavor than milk chocolate. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the richer the taste. Cocoa is naturally bitter and very strong-tasting. Chocolate-makers (especially makers of milk chocolate) mellow this flavor by processes, such as alkalizing, fermenting, roasting, and adding milk and/or sugar, all of which can destroy healthy flavanols, alter our ability to use them or negate their health effects all together with unhealthy additives.
It’s helpful to understand a little about how sugar is used by the brain. The carbohydrates you eat, including sugars, are broken down into glucose. Your brain needs glucose to function properly. Unfortunately, many people eat much more sugar than they need. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the average American eats the equivalent of about 42 teaspoons of sugar a day. That added sugar comes from various sources, such as table sugar, baked goods, and sugary drinks.
"The bottom line is the same: eat more fruits and veggies," says Ronald L. Prior, Ph.D., a chemist and nutritionist with the USDA's Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center in Little Rock, Ark., and lead author of the study. "This study confirms that those foods are full of benefits, particularly those with higher levels of antioxidants. Nuts and spices are also good sources."
Artichoke hearts are not only a delicacy, they also are packed with free radical fighting antioxidants too! While the fresh ones are in season in the spring, you can get bottled artichoke hearts all year around. Eat them as part of an antipasti platter, add them to your salads and in springtime, cook them up with some homemade aioli dip. Delicious!
Sugary drinks, candy, baked goods, and sweetened dairy are the main sources of added sugar. But even savory foods, like breads, tomato sauce, and protein bars, can have sugar, making it all too easy to end up with a surplus of the sweet stuff. To complicate it further, added sugars can be hard to spot on nutrition labels since they can be listed under a number of names, such as corn syrup, agave nectar, palm sugar, cane juice, or sucrose. (See more names for sugar on the graphic below.)
The world’s love affair with chocolate has only grown over the years. We love it drizzled on ice cream, mixed with warm milk for a delicious beverage, or combined with nuts and caramel for a tempting treat. Chocolate remains one of our favorite indulgences; Americans eat around $18.27 billion worth of chocolate every year—nearly 18 percent of the world’s chocolate confectionary, according to 2015 statistics released by Euromonitor International. And as culinary artists continue to create new ways to experiment with cocoa, dark chocolate has grown in popularity as a rich and intense alternative to milk chocolate.
Various types of chocolate were analyzed, from milk chocolate to dark chocolate and baking cocoa. The variation of antioxidant content in chocolate ranged from 0.23 in white chocolate to 14.98 mmol/100 g in one individual dark chocolate sample. Mean antioxidant contents increased with increasing content of cocoa in the chocolate product (Pearson correlation r = 0.927, p < 0.001). Chocolate products with cocoa contents of 24-30%, 40-65% and 70-99% had mean antioxidant contents of 1.8, 7.2 and 10.9 mmol/100 g, respectively.
An ongoing 40-year study on the effects of chocolate on cognitive function was recently finished. The study used data from the beginning of the study and compared it through cross-sectional study. This might not mean that chocolate makes people smarter—perhaps smart people happen to eat chocolate. Regardless, the study also concluded that all the types of intelligence measured previously were increased by chocolate consumption—along with spoken word recall.
But there are lesser-known reasons you should indulge in the (bitter)sweet stuff. Dark chocolate has been scientifically proven to keep your brain sharp, your ticker ticking and your skin shielded from the sun’s harmful rays (yes, really). Dark chocolate can be the key to beating that midday slump, accoriding to a new study from Northern Arizona University found.
The research included information that animal studies have found the hippocampus, which is an area in the brain associated with memory, may be affected by refined sugar. Two studies were conducted in the published report. In the first study, participants that self-reported eating a high-sugar diet had poorer performance on hippocampal related memory tasks. In the second study, the results were replicated. The second study also revealed that the effect of high sugar consumption on memory appears to be directly related to the hippocampal region and no other areas which may also affect memory, such as the prefrontal cortex.
The occasional candy or cookie can give you a quick burst of energy (or “sugar high”) by raising your blood sugar levels fast. When your levels drop as your cells absorb the sugar, you may feel jittery and anxious (a.k.a. the dreaded “sugar crash”). But if you’re reaching into the candy jar too often, sugar starts to have an effect on your mood beyond that 3 p.m. slump: Studies have linked a high sugar intake to a greater risk of depression in adults.
An excerpt of the 425 spices and herbs analyzed in our study are presented in Table Table5.5. The study includes spices and herbs from 59 different manufacturers or countries. Twenty seven single products are in the range 100 to 465 mmol/100 g, but the variation is from 0.08 mmol/100 g in raw garlic paste procured in Japan, to 465 mmol/100 g in dried and ground clove purchased in Norway. Sorted by antioxidant content, clove has the highest mean antioxidant value, followed by peppermint, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, saffron and estragon, all dried and ground, with mean values ranging from 44 to 277 mmol/100 g. When analyzed in fresh samples compared to dried, oregano, rosemary and thyme have lower values, in the range of 2.2 to 5.6 mmol/100 g. This is also true for basil, chives, dill and parsley. In addition to common spices and culinary herbs, we have also analyzed other herbs, like birch leaves, wild marjoram and wood cranesbill among others. Details on all herbs can be found in Additional file 1, the Antioxidant Food Table.
Initial studies have been carried out to examine the association between intake of antioxidant rich foods and their health effects [67,70]. Some of these studies describe a beneficial effect on oxidative stress related chronic diseases, e.g. from intake of nuts [49,69], pomegranates [71-73], tomatoes , coffee , tea [54,75,76], red wine [77-79] and cocoa . The highly reactive and bioactive phytochemical antioxidants are postulated to in part explain the protective effect of plant foods. An optimal mixture of different antioxidants with complementary mechanisms of action and different redox potentials is postulated to work in synergistic interactions. Still, it is not likely that all antioxidant-rich foods are good sources and that all antioxidants provided in the diet are bioactive. Bioavailability differs greatly from one phytochemical to another [26,27,80], so the most antioxidant rich foods in our diet are not necessarily those leading to the highest concentrations of active metabolites in target tissues. The antioxidants obtained from foods include many different molecular compounds and families with different chemical and biological properties that may affect absorption, transport and excretion, cellular uptake and metabolism, and eventually their effects on oxidative stress in various cellular compartments . Biochemically active phytochemicals found in plant-based foods also have many powerful biological properties which are not necessarily correlated with their antioxidant capacity, including acting as inducers of antioxidant defense mechanisms in vivo or as gene expression modulators. Thus a food low in antioxidant content may have beneficial health effects due to other food components or phytochemicals executing bioactivity through other mechanisms.
There is increasing evidence that antioxidants are more effective when obtained from whole foods, rather than isolated from a food and presented in tablet form – and some supplements can actually increase cancer risk. For instance, vitamin A (beta-carotene) has been associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, but an increase in others, such as lung cancer in smokers, if vitamin A is purified from foodstuffs.