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!
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.
It was in 1847 that a British chocolate company (J.S. Fry & Sons) created the first solid edible chocolate bar from three ingredients: cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar. Huge names like Cadbury, Mars and Hershey came into the picture in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The love of chocolate has only continued to grow over the years. Now many mainstream chocolate producers make “dark chocolate” that really isn’t very healthy. On the other hand, there are now more and more companies making high-quality, high-cacao/cocoa content chocolate that’s not only dark, but also organic and fairly traded.
For a report published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2004, scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) performed what is considered to be the most comprehensive analysis of the antioxidant content of commonly consumed foods. The USDA scientists ranked these foods according to their total antioxidant capacity, which is a measure of the antioxidants' ability to neutralize free radicals.
When it comes to your bone health, yet again salt is the white crystal in shining armor. When we cut our salt intake, to the level that every dietary guideline tells us to, this can cause calcium and magnesium depletion from the body. When our intake of salt goes down, the body seems to pull sodium as well as calcium and magnesium from the bone, likely increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Low salt diets also increase the loss of magnesium in sweat—the body pushing out more magnesium instead of sodium in order to conserve low sodium reserves. All of this can take its toll on the health of our bones. In fact, consuming more salt may protect your bones, whereas consuming a diet high in sugar is clearly harmful. The next time you decide to reach for the sugar bowl, think twice, grabbing the salt shaker instead just may end up saving your life.
With this study we present a comprehensive survey of the total antioxidant capacity in foods. Earlier small-scale studies from other laboratories have included from a few up to a few hundred samples [20-22,29-31], and in 2007 the U.S. Department of Agriculture presented the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods report including 277 food samples [23]. These studies have been done using different antioxidant assays for measuring antioxidant capacity making it difficult to compare whole lists of foods, products and product categories. Still, a food that has a high total antioxidant capacity using one antioxidant assay will most likely also be high using another assay [20-22]. Consequently, the exact value will be different but the ranking of the products will be mainly the same whichever assay is used. In the present extensive study, the same validated method has been used on all samples, resulting in comparable measures, thus enabling us to present a complete picture of the relative antioxidant potential of the samples.
Although some preliminary studies suggest that antioxidant supplements may help thwart disease development by reducing oxidative stress, more research is needed before such supplements can be recommended for disease prevention. In fact, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that findings from rigorous scientific studies involving a total of more than 100,000 people have largely indicated that antioxidant supplements may not reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Let’s not forget about our little ones! When New York City public schools reduced the amount of sugar in their lunches and breakfasts, their academic ranking increased 15.7% (previously, the greatest improvement ever seen had been 1.7%).11 The study also eliminated artificial colors, synthetic flavoring, and two preservatives, showing the importance of natural ingredients for children.

It’s important to maintain the balance between antioxidants and oxidants in the body for good health. However, the free radicals or oxidants usually outnumber the antioxidants naturally produced in the body. Therefore, it is important to have a continuous supply of antioxidants from an external source to maintain this balance. Your diet is this external source and it must be packed with good quality antioxidants. This, in turn, provides other benefits like slowing down the signs of ageing, making your skin look youthful and lowering the risk of heart disease. A diet rich in antioxidants is also known to keep your brain active and your gut healthy. Needless to say, all these factors help in improving the quality and length of your life.Here are seven antioxidant rich foods that you must eat regularly and add to your daily diet if you haven’t already:
Some nutrients are destroyed in the process of making chocolate available for the general market. Make sure the chocolate you buy is within the healthy range. Check the label: Chocolate with a 60 percent or higher cocoa content is packed full of nutrients and antioxidants. Often called bittersweet, it has minimal sugar. The best way to get all the nutrients from chocolate is simply to use unsweetened cocoa nibs. The bitter, crunchy, seed-like snack isn't the best-tasting treat, but its nutritional profile makes it worthwhile.
But the effects of sugar go far beyond a simple increase in calorie consumption. Sugar consumption affects organs throughout the body, including the liver and heart. It increases your risk of disease. It can affect your thought processes. It even affects the appearance of your skin. Sugar messes with your functioning from head to toe — from minor annoyances to life-threatening health conditions.
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 [6], coffee [74], tea [54,75,76], red wine [77-79] and cocoa [56]. 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 [24]. 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.
Choosing the best food sources of antioxidants can go a long way in enhancing your health and fighting disease. A class of compounds found in a wide range of foods (especially plant-derived foods), antioxidants help protect against the damaging effects of free radicals. It's thought that increasing your intake of the best food sources of antioxidants can help fend off a host of major health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and some forms of cancer.
While it’s good for your brain and digestive health, dark chocolate can benefit your heart even more. Research shows that the flavonoids naturally found in chocolate can help lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol. Flavonoids can also significantly decrease systolic blood pressure in healthy older adults. Dark chocolate has also been found to improve insulin resistance and endothelial dysfunction, both of which have a positive effect on the heart. In fact, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, in individuals who suffered a previous heart attack, eating chocolate twice a week compared with never eating chocolate has been shown to lower the risk of death from heart disease by 66 percent.
A German study of the diets of more than 19,000 people found that eating chocolate may help lower blood pressure, and in turn, cardiovascular disease risk. A widespread analysis of numerous studies on the topic conducted by Australian researchers also found limited but noticeable blood pressure benefits from eating the superfood. Again, very few studies pinpoint the exact amount of dark chocolate or flavonoids needed to get this effect, and more scientific study is needed.
Some of you may be surprised to find honey here. Although honey is a natural sweetener, it is considered a refined sugar because 96% of dry matter are simple sugars: fructose, glucose and sucrose. It is little wonder that the honey bear is the only animal found in nature with a problem with tooth-decay (honey decays teeth faster than table sugar). Honey has the highest calorie content of all sugars with 65 calories/tablespoon, compared to the 48 calories/tablespoon found in table sugar. The increased calories are bound to cause increased blood serum fatty acids, as well as weight gain, on top of the risk of more cavities.
Lowers blood pressure – Those same antioxidants that helps improve the blood flow are the ones that also decrease its resistance, and consequently eases the blood pressure in small amounts against the arteries. Even though it releases the pressure just a little bit, in time that is a big benefit for your heart. High blood pressure is always linked to heart diseases. So lowering it little by little is a huge help to eliminate risks.
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.

Choosing the best food sources of antioxidants can go a long way in enhancing your health and fighting disease. A class of compounds found in a wide range of foods (especially plant-derived foods), antioxidants help protect against the damaging effects of free radicals. It's thought that increasing your intake of the best food sources of antioxidants can help fend off a host of major health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and some forms of cancer.

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.
Disclaimer: The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Dr. Mercola, unless otherwise noted. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright as marked. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Mercola and his community. Dr. Mercola encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your health care professional before using products based on this content.
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.

Dementia – Dementia is a complex illness. Physiological, genetic, and nutritional elements may play a role in the development of certain forms of dementia. For example, it appears Alzheimer’s disease may occur due to a buildup of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain, which disrupts normal function. A study published in the Journal of Gerontology found animal models of dementia may develop due to excess sugar consumption. The excess sugar is thought to cause an insulin reaction that might increase deposits of beta-amyloid proteins and increase the risk of developing dementia.
Herbert had softer stool for all the days of the challenge, and on seven out of the 14 days she went to the bathroom more than once. "This is not normal for me, but everything was 'smoother'. I started using Xylitol [a sweetener] towards the end, but it upset my stomach. This was a side-effect that made it more difficult to sustain the challenge."  
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.

For another berry rich in antioxidant power, strawberries are an excellent choice. These berries are another one of the most highly concentrated antioxidant fruits. The antioxidants found in strawberries have been shown to fight carcinogens and LDL, cholesterol that is known to cause heart disease. Strawberries contain, anthocyanins, the antioxidants that protect against cardiovascular diseases. They are also a great source of vitamin C, which protects your body’s cells from free radical damage.
What your dentist told you when you were a kid is true. “Oral bacteria love sugar just like we do, and when they feast on it, acid gets released as a byproduct,” says Dr. Sanda Moldovan, DDS. “This acid attacks the enamel of the teeth and allows bacteria to penetrate into the deeper layer of the tooth structure, called dentin.” The more sugar you eat, the more acidic the mouth becomes and the faster cavities develop. Plus, sugar feeds yeast growth, which might make the corners of your mouth or tongue red. “This also comes with a velcro-like feeling, or sensitivity to spicy foods,” she says. The sugar link is also a reason why diabetes is one of the diseases your teeth can reveal.
Sugar has a bittersweet reputation when it comes to health. Sugar occurs naturally in all foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, and dairy. Consuming whole foods that contain natural sugar is okay. Plant foods also have high amounts of fiber, essential minerals, and antioxidants, and dairy foods contain protein and calcium.
Several assays have been used to assess the total antioxidant content of foods, e.g. the 6-hydroxy-2,5,7,8-tetramethylchroman-2-carboxylic acid (Trolox) equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC) assay [12], the ferric-reducing ability of plasma (FRAP) [13] and the oxygen radical absorbance capacity assay (ORAC) assay [14]. Based on careful considerations (see Blomhoff 2005 and Halvorsen et al 2002 for discussion [15,16]) we chose to use a modified version of the FRAP assay by Benzie and Strain [13] for total antioxidant analysis [16]. Most importantly, the modified FRAP assay is a simple, fast and inexpensive assay with little selectivity. Assay conditions, such as extraction solvents, were optimized regarding detection of both lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidants [16]. The FRAP assay directly measures antioxidants with a reduction potential below the reduction potential of the Fe3+/Fe2+ couple [16,17]. Thus, the FRAP assay does not measure glutathione. Most other assays have higher reduction potentials and measures glutathione and other thiols [18]. This may be an advantage when using the FRAP assay, because glutathione is found in high concentrations in foods but it is degraded in the intestine and poorly absorbed by humans [19]. A disadvantage of the FRAP assay is its inability to detect other small molecular weight thiols and sulfur containing molecules of e.g. garlic. Most assays for assessing total antioxidant capacity generally result in similar ranking of foods [20-23]. We have now performed a systematic measurement of the total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods. This novel Antioxidant Food Table enables us to calculate total antioxidant content of complex diets, identify and rank potentially good sources of antioxidants, and provide the research community with comparable data on the relative antioxidant capacity of a wide range of foods.
Chocolate tastes sinfully sweet, but you may no longer need to feel guilty about indulging in an ounce or two a few times a week. A growing number of studies show that chocolate, especially antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, has health benefits that put it squarely on the latest list of superfoods. A key reason chocolate has so many health benefits is that it is rich in flavonoids, which are naturally occurring substances found in plants that can provide a serious boost in antioxidant action for you.
Cuts down risks for heart disease – Eating dark chocolate a few times a week should cause much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries and we should see a lower risk of heart disease over the long term. There are studies that revealed that eating chocolate 2 or more times per week greatly lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries. Eating chocolate less frequently had no effect. So regular consumption of dark chocolate can in fact reduce the risk of heart disease.
While they are young now and it is easy to make sure they are eating healthy foods, especially at home, they will one day grow up and be away from home and exposed to all types of foods. I think it is important to let them start to make food choices on their own (and they usually make healthy ones) while they are still young and I can still help guide their choices rather than completely restrict them.
Currently, there are no government guidelines for consumers on how many antioxidants to consume and what kind of antioxidants to consume in their daily diet, as is the case with vitamins and minerals. A major barrier to such guidelines is a lack of consensus among nutrition researchers on uniform antioxidant measurements. Scientists will soon attempt to develop such a consensus at the First International Congress on Antioxidant Methods, held June 16-18 at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando, Fla., with the ultimate goal of developing better nutritional data for consumers. ACS is the principal sponsor of the meeting.

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.”

The category includes 52 products, including European, Scandinavian and American products. The variation in antioxidant content in dinner and dessert products for infants varies from 0.02 to 1.25 mmol/100 g. Interestingly, human breast milk (49 samples from Norwegian mothers) has a mean content of 2.0 mmol/100 g. In addition, the category includes two Norwegian dog rose products for infants with antioxidant contents of 6.7 and 18.5 mmol/100 g.
“Dr. David Reuben, author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Nutrition says, “white refined sugar-is not a food. It is a pure chemical extracted from plant sources, purer in fact than cocaine, which it resembles in many ways. Its true name is sucrose and its chemical formula is C12H22O11. It has 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms, 11 oxygen atoms, and absolutely nothing else to offer.” …The chemical formula for cocaine is C17H21NO4. Sugar’s formula again is C12H22O11. For all practical purposes, the difference is that sugar is missing the “N”, or nitrogen atom.”
Your dark chocolate of choice should also be made from cocoa butter, not palm and/or coconut oils. Also look out for any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list. Now that huge commercial chocolate makers are responding to the love of dark chocolate and making their own versions, you have to be careful. A label that reads “dark chocolate” doesn’t automatically make it a healthy choice. The healthiest or best dark chocolate is made from cacao or cocoa that’s organic, minimally processed and definitely not dutched.

Vitamin A and C have been connected to a decrease in the appearance of wrinkles and skin dryness. Vitamin C, specifically, is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce the effect of oxidative damage caused by pollution, stress or poor diet. Vitamin A deficiency has also been linked to skin dryness, scaling and follicular thickening of the skin. Similarly to how free radicals damage surface skin cells, keratinization of the skin, when the epithelial cells lose their moisture and become hard and dry, can occur in the mucous membranes of the respiratory, gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract.
The Western lifestyle — with its processed foods, reliance on medications, and high exposure to chemicals or environmental pollutants — seems to lay the foundation for the proliferation of free radicals. Because many of us are exposed to such high rates of oxidative stress from a young age, more than ever we need the power of antioxidants, which means we need to consume high antioxidant foods.
Herbert had softer stool for all the days of the challenge, and on seven out of the 14 days she went to the bathroom more than once. "This is not normal for me, but everything was 'smoother'. I started using Xylitol [a sweetener] towards the end, but it upset my stomach. This was a side-effect that made it more difficult to sustain the challenge."