No, it’s not your imagination; some research supports the idea that chocolate really can boost your mood. It’s the fatty acids that do the trick, and dark chocolate contains two saturated fatty acids — palmitic and stearic acids — in addition to its health-boosting flavonoids. More research needs to be done, DuBost says, but studies have found that chocolate in particular can make you feel happier and improve your mood. The theory is that chocolate stimulates the neural activity in the regions of the brain associated with pleasure and reward, she says.


After you scarf dark chocolate down, “good” microbes in your gut feast on it, fermenting it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for your heart, according to research presented at the 2014 American Chemical Society meeting. Antioxidants and fiber present in cocoa powder aren’t fully digested until they reach the colon where the compounds are absorbed into the body, lessening inflammation within cardiovascular tissue and reducing long-term risk of stroke. 
Foods high in refined sugar are claimed to exacerbate hyperactivity and increase aggressive behavior. Controlled studies have failed to confirm any effect on hyperactivity and effects on inattention have been equivocal. Possible effect on aggressive behavior has received little study. This study assessed cognitive attention and aggressive behavior immediately following an acute ingestion of sugar compared with saccharin and aspartame-sweetened placebos in 17 subjects with attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity compared with 9 age-matched control subjects. The sugar and placebo challenges were given with a breakfast high in carbohydrate. Although the children with attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity were significantly more aggressive than the control subjects, there were no significant effects of sugar or either placebo on the aggressive behavior of either group. However, inattention, as measured by a continuous performance task, increased only in the attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity group following sugar, but not saccharin or aspartame. This result is of questionable clinical significance inasmuch as aggressive behavior was unchanged. The finding may be due to the combination of the sugar challenge with a high-carbohydrate breakfast. These findings should be replicated and any possible clinical significance should be documented before any dietary recommendations can be made.
The new study is more complete and accurate (thanks to updated technology) than previous USDA antioxidant data and includes more foods than the previous study, the researchers say. They analyzed antioxidant levels in over 100 different foods, including fruits and vegetables. In addition, the new study includes data on spices and nuts for the first time.
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Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in dark chocolate. According to Cleveland Clinic, research has shown that flavanols have a very positive effect on heart health by helping lower blood pressure and improving blood flow to the heart as well as the brain. Dark chocolates flavanols can also help make blood platelets less sticky and able to clot, which reduces the risk of blood clots and stroke. (5)
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Rich in nutrients – Chocolate with a high content of cocoa is loaded with nutrients, including a soluble fiber while also rich in iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and potassium. Dark chocolate also contains a slight amount of mono- and polyunsaturated fats – good fats – which are shown to reduce cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Here’s how to have your most heart-healthy day: Cut the sugar. Studies have shown that the detrimental effects of sugar on the body could be linked to high cholesterol and death from heart disease. “High intake of sugars has been associated with an increase in a type of blood lipid called very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) that has been associated with risk for cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Saltzman says. Sugar may also decrease HDL, the “good” cholesterol that protects against heart problems, he says. Plus, get ready for high blood pressure. “Insulin resistance may cause hypertension by its effects on the kidney, on the structure and function of arteries, and possibly on centers in the brain that contribute to blood pressure control,” he says.
Stresses the Liver: “When we eat fructose, it goes to the liver. If liver glycogen is low, such as after a run, the fructose will be used to replenish it (3).However, most people aren’t consuming fructose after a long workout and their livers are already full of glycogen. When this happens, the liver turns the fructose into fat (2). Some of the fat gets shipped out, but part of it remains in the liver. The fat can build up over time and ultimately lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (4, 5, 6).”
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!
Rich in nutrients – Chocolate with a high content of cocoa is loaded with nutrients, including a soluble fiber while also rich in iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and potassium. Dark chocolate also contains a slight amount of mono- and polyunsaturated fats – good fats – which are shown to reduce cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Efforts to mimic nature’s antioxidants have largely failed. In fact, some antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene, are even harmful to health in large doses. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) recommends, “Do not use antioxidant supplements to replace a healthy diet or conventional medical care, or as a reason to postpone seeing a healthcare provider about a medical problem. If you are considering a dietary supplement, first get information on it from reliable sources.” Dietary supplements contain active ingredients, so always check for interactions with your medications.

When certain types of oxygen molecules are allowed to travel freely in the body, they cause what’s known as oxidative damage, which is the formation of free radicals. When antioxidant levels in the body are lower than that of free radicals — due to poor nutrition, toxin exposure or other factors — oxidation wreaks havoc in the body. The effect? Accelerated aging, damaged or mutated cells, broken-down tissue, the activation of harmful genes within DNA, and an overloaded immune system.
Cacao contains more than 300 compounds, including protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, iron, zinc, copper, calcium and magnesium, according to a Natural News article. “Magnesium helps to build strong bones and is a muscle relaxant associated with feelings of calmness,” the report adds. “Cacao is also high in sulfur, which helps form strong nails and hair.”

Sugar alcohols like xylitol, glycerol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and erythritol are neither sugars nor alcohols but are becoming increasingly popular as sweeteners. They are incompletely absorbed from your small intestine, for the most part, so they provide fewer calories than sugar but often cause problems with bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence.
According to the FDA, chocolates are unfortunately one of the most common sources of undeclared milk linked to consumer reactions. In addition, recent testing by the FDA found that you can’t always tell if a dark chocolate has milk just by reading the ingredient list. Many manufacturers make their dark chocolate on the same equipment that they use for milk chocolate production so traces of milk end up in the dark chocolate too. (25)  If you’re concerned about milk possibly being in your dark chocolate, contact the manufacturer.
Dark chocolate is high in calories (150-170 calories per ounce) and can contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess. However, chocolate, like nuts can induce satiety, so the longer term implications for weight control are not clear.  It also contains a moderate amount of saturated fat, which can negatively affect blood lipid levels, though its heart-protective effects from flavanols appear to outweigh the risk. Choosing dark chocolate and eating modest quantities may offer the greatest health benefits.
Most of the breakfast cereals have antioxidant content in the range of 0.5 to 2.25 mmol/100 g, while 4 single products are above this range. Among grains and grain products, buckwheat, millet and barley flours are the flours with the highest antioxidant values in our study (Table ​(Table3),3), while crisp bread and whole meal bread with fiber are the grain products containing most antioxidants. Beans and lentils have mean antioxidant values ranging from 0.1 to 1.97 mmol/100 g. Different types of rice have antioxidant values between 0.01 and 0.36 mmol/100 g.
My kids typically make good food choices on their own and have become rather adventurous eaters since they aren’t restricted or expected to only consume chicken fingers or hamburgers when we aren’t at home. For instance, my two year old loves broccoli, olives, sardines and other healthy foods. Make the good foods readily available and make the unhealthy ones few and far between…
Alongside lowering blood pressure and improving heart health, dark chocolate also has a few cholesterol-lowering tricks up its sleeve. Studies have shown that just one week of dark chocolate consumption was enough to improve lipid profiles and decrease platelet reactivity for both men and women (7). This may be due to the fact that the cocoa butter in dark chocolate contains some of the same heart-healthy fatty acids found in olive oil.
To avoid overindulging in dark chocolate yet obtain the benefits of dark chocolate, it’s a smart idea to eat a little piece by itself after a solid meal or include it in a recipe. If you’re sensitive to caffeine or looking to avoid caffeine entirely, it’s important to know that there are measurable amounts of caffeine in dark chocolate. Caffeine side effects can include nervousness, increased urination, sleeplessness and a rapid heartbeat, all reasons to avoid caffeine overdose.
Forget carrots—dark chocolate can improve your eyesight too, according to research published in the journal Physiology & Behavior. The researchers found that participants who consumed dark chocolate with 720 mg of cocoa flavanols experienced enhanced visual performance—like detecting motion and reading low contrast letters—likely due to the increased blood flow to the retina and brain. 
In addition to confirming the well-publicized high antioxidant ranking of such foods as cranberries and blueberries, the researchers found that Russet potatoes, pecans and even cinnamon are all excellent, although lesser-known, sources of antioxidants, which are thought to fight cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's. The study appears in the June 9 print edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Cocoa is rich in plant chemicals called flavanols that may help to protect the heart. Dark chocolate contains up to 2-3 times more flavanol-rich cocoa solids than milk chocolate. Flavanols have been shown to support the production of nitric oxide (NO) in the endolethium (the inner cell lining of blood vessels) that helps to relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow, thereby lowering blood pressure. [1,2] Flavanols in chocolate can increase insulin sensitivity in short term studies; in the long run this could reduce risk of diabetes. [3,4]
People with high levels of sugar consumption are much more likely to become obese or overweight, no matter what age — even children. In fact, children who drink a serving of sugar-sweetened beverage daily have a 60 percent greater chance of become obese. This sets your child up for a lifetime of being overweight or obese — plus, all of the potential health
Evidence that dark chocolate may play a role in cancer prevention is limited but growing. Some preliminary studies on three continents — Europe, Asia, and North America — have shown that people who eat many flavonoids or a lot of antioxidant-rich chocolate develop fewer cancers than those who don’t consume them. Of the many flavonoids in chocolate, two in particular, epicatechin and quercetin, are believed to be responsible for the cancer-fighting properties.
Aside from sunscreen, you may want to chow down on dark chocolate every day to protect your skin against harmful UV rays, according to research from the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. But not just any old dark chocolate—it needs to be specially produced with preserved high flavanol levels (manufacturing processes destroy the integrity of flavanols). 
TPTZ (2,4,6-tri-pyridyl-s-triazine) was obtained from Fluka Chemie AG (Deisenhofen, Switzerland), sodium acetate trihydrate and FeSO4 × 7 H2O from Riedel-deHaën AG (Seelze, Germany), acetic acid and hydrochloric acid from Merck (Darmstadt, Germany), FeCl3 × 6H2O from BDH Laboratory Supplies (Dorset, England). MilliQ water (Millipore, Bedford, MA) and methanol of HPLC-grade obtained from Merck was used for all extractions. 2-propanol (HPLC-grade) was obtained from Merck.
Editor's Note: USDA scientists analyzed antioxidant levels in more than 100 different foods, including fruits and vegetables. Each food was measured for antioxidant concentration as well as antioxidant capacity per serving size. Cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries ranked highest among the fruits studied. Beans, artichokes, and Russet potatoes were tops among the vegetables. Pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts ranked highest in the nut category.
Dark chocolate makes my list of 15 brain foods to boost focus and memory for good reason. Previous research showed that “acute as well as chronic ingestion of flavanol-rich cocoa is associated with increased blood flow to cerebral gray matter and it has been suggested that cocoa flavanols might be beneficial in conditions with reduced cerebral blood flow, including dementia and stroke.”
Fructose—the sugar that naturally occurs in fruit and is a component, with glucose, of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and table sugar—lights up the brain's reward center, says pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig, MD, of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in San Francisco. But over time, a diet packed with fructose (especially from HFCS) can make it tougher to learn and remember, animal research suggests. To stay in peak mental shape, try sticking with savory snacks.
The cocoa butter found in dark chocolate contains equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids. It’s true that stearic and palmitic acids are forms of saturated fat, but research shows that stearic acid appears to have a neutral effect on cholesterol, which means it doesn’t raise it or lower it. The palmitic acid in dark chocolate can increase cholesterol levels, but thankfully it only makes up about a small portion of the fat in dark chocolate — plus dark chocolate has a lot of great plant nutrients that make up for palmitic acid.
The research is piling up that soda is bad for your brain, as are other added sugars. An animal study from Oregon State University found that a high-sugar diet led to cognitive impairments, including memory problems. And a UK study recently found the “tipping point” at which blood sugar negatively affects the progression of Alzheimer’s. “Excess sugar is well known to be bad for us when it comes to diabetes and obesity, but this potential link with Alzheimer’s disease is yet another reason that we should be controlling our sugar intake in our diets,” study author Dr. Omar Kassaar of the University of Bath said in a press release.
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