Have a big meeting, test or dinner with the in-laws? Eating dark chocolate can give your brain a short-term boost—increasing your alertness—for two to three hours, a University of Nottingham study found. Flavanols, one of dark chocolate’s key components, dilates blood vessels, allowing more oxygen and blood to reach key areas of the brain, which can help you soldier against fatigue and the effects of aging. The study participants consumed a flavanol-rich cocoa drink, but you can eat dark chocolate by itself—or any foods high in flavanols like red wine, green tea and blueberries. 
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To melt: Dark chocolate should be heated gradually to prevent scorching. This may be done on a stove top on low heat or in a microwave oven on 50% power. Break chocolate into smaller pieces and place in pan or microwave to heat. Stir continually (or after each minute) to ensure even heating. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of melted dark chocolate over oatmeal, yogurt, or fresh fruit for an easy healthful snack.
Sweets can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the near term, research shows. But continue OD'ing on sugary refined carbs and your risk of insulin resistance, which stresses the body from the inside, goes up. To find your calm, sweat instead: "Exercise is the best treatment for stress. It makes you feel good and reduces cortisol," says Dr. Lustig.
You know saturated fats are bad for your heart, but sugar can also have a damaging effect on your cardiac health. A high intake of added sugars seems to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. One study that took place over 15 years indicated that people who consume 25 percent or more of calories from sugar were more than twice as likely as those who consumed less than 10 percent of calories from sugar to die from heart disease. Simply eating a high-sugar diet significantly increases your risk of heart problems.
Sugar and refined carbohydrates are considered 'empty calories', mainly because they don't contain any useful nutrients. Some foods high in sugar are heavily processed, and the sweet stuff is added to make them more palatable and desirable. It's these foods that are not always easy to spot the sugar in, and often those that are marketed as 'healthy', or low in fat which can be the worst offenders. In some cases, ready meals could contain up to 12 teaspoons of sugar per portion, a can of cola houses six and a bowl of dry Bran Flakes has three.
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.
Oxidative stress is believed to play a central role in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, but a nutrient-dense diet seems to lower one’s risk. The Journal of the American Medical Association of Neurology reports that higher intake of foods rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, may modestly reduce long-term risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. (10)
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.
Fish provides powerful omega-3 fatty acids. Evidence suggests that omega-3s, particularly those coming from fish, may help prevent inflammatory diseases, such as coronary heart disease. Although all fish have some omega-3s, the stars include sardines, salmon, oysters, mackerel, tuna steak, wild rainbow trout, shark steak, albacore tuna, and herring.
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.
When you eat excess sugar, the extra insulin in your bloodstream can affect your arteries, part of your body’s circulatory system. It causes their walls to grow faster than normal and get tense, which adds stress to your heart and damages it over time. This can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Research also suggests that eating less sugar can help lower blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. Plus, people who eat a lot of added sugar (where at least 25% of their calories comes from added sugar) are twice as likely to die of heart disease as those whose diets include less than 10% of total calories from added sugar.
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.
Small-scale studies have indicated for quite some time that regular intake of cocoa can have a positive effect in fighting cardiovascular disease. A more recent study on cocoa's cardiovascular benefits, done in 2006, proved this among a larger study group of 470 men, all tested while consuming different daily doses of cocoa. The conclusions were that cocoa does indeed lower the chances and significance of cardiovascular disease.
Today, the level of antioxidants in any substance or food is evaluated with an ORAC score, which stands for “oxygen radical absorption capacity. ORAC tests the power of a plant to absorb and eliminate free radicals. These measurements were developed by the National Institute of Aging and are based on 100 grams of each food or herb. While ORAC scores are no longer available via the National Institutes of Health, you can still find many of them on Superfoodly.

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."  
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.”
It is widely accepted that a plant-based diet with high intake of fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-rich plant foods may reduce the risk of oxidative stress-related diseases [1-6]. Understanding the complex role of diet in such chronic diseases is challenging since a typical diet provides more than 25,000 bioactive food constituents [6], many of which may modify a multitude of processes that are related to these diseases. Because of the complexity of this relationship, it is likely that a comprehensive understanding of the role of these bioactive food components is needed to assess the role of dietary plants in human health and disease development. We suggest that both their numerous individual functions as well as their combined additive or synergistic effects are crucial to their health beneficial effects, thus a food-based research approach is likely to elucidate more health effects than those derived from each individual nutrient. Most bioactive food constituents are derived from plants; those so derived are collectively called phytochemicals. The large majority of these phytochemicals are redox active molecules and therefore defined as antioxidants. Antioxidants can eliminate free radicals and other reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, and these reactive species contribute to most chronic diseases. It is hypothesized that antioxidants originating from foods may work as antioxidants in their own right in vivo, as well as bring about beneficial health effects through other mechanisms, including acting as inducers of mechanisms related to antioxidant defense [7,8], longevity [9,10], cell maintenance and DNA repair [11].

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.

Catsicas predicted that Herbert's mood would improve as the two week period progressed, but it seems she experienced the opposite. "It's very difficult to give up something that you are so used to," says Herbert. "It's not a small change and there were days where I was grumpy and frustrated. Chocolate and sweet coffee were my vices and suddenly I had no crutch to lean on during stressful times.
You know saturated fats are bad for your heart, but sugar can also have a damaging effect on your cardiac health. A high intake of added sugars seems to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. One study that took place over 15 years indicated that people who consume 25 percent or more of calories from sugar were more than twice as likely as those who consumed less than 10 percent of calories from sugar to die from heart disease. Simply eating a high-sugar diet significantly increases your risk of heart problems.
There is something called a "phagocytic index" which tells you how rapidly a particular macrophage or lymphocyte can gobble up a virus, bacteria, or cancer cell. It was in the 1970's that Linus Pauling realized that white blood cells need a high dose of vitamin C and that is when he came up with his theory that you need high doses of vitamin C to combat the common cold.
Lung, prostate, breast, ovarian, bladder, oral and skin cancers have been demonstrated to be suppressed by retinoic acid. (9) Another study collected numerous references demonstrating the findings of retinoic acid in protection against melanoma, hepatoma, lung cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. However, there’s evidence indicating that the benefits of chemicals like retinoic acid are safest when obtained from food naturally, rather than supplements.
These antioxidants are believed to be easily transported around the body, especially to the delicate parts of the eyes called the macula and the lens. In fact, there are more than 600 different types of carotenoids found in nature, but only about 20 make their way into the eyes. (4) Of those 20, lutein and zeaxanthin are the only two that are deposited in high quantities into the macular portion of the eyes, which is one of the earliest to be damaged during aging.

With their high content of phytochemicals such as flavonoids, tannins, stilbenoids, phenolic acids and lignans [43-45] berries and berry products are potentially excellent antioxidant sources. The phytochemical content of berries varies with geographical growing condition, and between cultivars [46,47] explaining the variations found in our study. During the processing of berries to jams, total phenol content is reduced [48] resulting in lower antioxidant values in processed berry products than in fresh berries.
If you’re like me, you love to eat chocolate. But not just any chocolate — I eat the varieties that are often referred to as “superfoods.” I’m talking about dark chocolate and cacoa nibs, which are both truly healthy forms of chocolate if you pick the right products. You’re probably thinking how is dark chocolate good for you, and in general, is chocolate good for you? Well, I’m about to tell you all about dark chocolate and how the benefits of dark chocolate are definitely for real.
Observational studies support the benefits of cocoa flavanols. The link between blood pressure and high cocoa intake was described in a study of the Kuna Indians, an isolated tribe who live on the Caribbean Coast of Panama. [5] Hypertension was extremely uncommon in this group, even among older ages, and even with a dietary salt intake that is greater than most Western populations. When the Kuna migrated to urban environments and changed their diets, their rates of high blood pressure increased. Notably, their traditional intake of cocoa as a beverage was very high, at more than five cups daily of either home-grown or Columbian cocoa powder rich in flavanols. The urinary levels of flavanols in the island-dwelling Kuna were significantly higher and their rates of death from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes significantly lower than their counterparts living in urban centers.
Sugar isn’t the only cause of cavities, though. Any carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes and fruit, can help create the acid, but sugar is definitely a major player in the development of cavities. Many sugary treats, such as soda, cookies and candy, stay on the teeth for longer periods because they aren’t easily removed by your saliva. That extended time on your
Cranberries are not just another staple on the American Holiday table. They pack some serious antioxidant punch and are also well known for their beneficial effect on preventing urinary tract infections. Try 100% cranberry juice diluted in water or sparkling water for a refreshing, tart drink, or add some unsweetened dried cranberries to your trail mix.
Cranberries are not just another staple on the American Holiday table. They pack some serious antioxidant punch and are also well known for their beneficial effect on preventing urinary tract infections. Try 100% cranberry juice diluted in water or sparkling water for a refreshing, tart drink, or add some unsweetened dried cranberries to your trail mix.
So how do antioxidants improve our health? Consider that your cells are constantly producing a variety of harmful chemicals called free radicals. In addition, your body is also exposed to free radicals in the environment—cigarette smoke, air pollution, and sunlight, for example. These free radicals trigger a process called “oxidative stress,” which damages cells. Oxidative stress is implicated in the aging process and also in many chronic diseases, from cancer to cardiovascular diseases, and from diabetes to dementia.
The aim of the present study was to screen foods to identify total antioxidant capacity of fruits, vegetables, beverages, spices and herbs in addition to common everyday foods. In nutritional epidemiologic and intervention studies, the Antioxidant Food Database may be utilized to identify and rank diets and subjects with regard to antioxidant intake and as a tool in planning dietary antioxidant interventions. The database will be available online at the University of Oslo's web site.
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.
"I'm a terrible sleeper and I can function on little sleep," says Herbert. Before the challenge she slept an average of seven hours per night and during the experiment her average dropped to 6.1 hours. "I don't think the challenge itself made a difference to my sleeping pattern, but it did take more time to prepare healthy, sugarless food. That's probably why I slept less during the challenge." 

Scientists believe when we eat plant foods (luscious dark chocolate comes from the cacao plant) rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, their benefits are passed on to us. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules thought to be responsible for aging and some diseases. “When you have too many free radicals in your body, they start to attack your cells, and that can lead, over time, to low-grade inflammation and to some diseases — cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s,” DuBost says.


A recent study published in Hypertension showed that performance on cognitive tests significantly improved in elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment if they consumed a daily cocoa drink containing high levels of flavanols for eight weeks, compared to those who consumed a low-flavanol cocoa drink. (Flavonols are a member of the polyphenol family—compounds found in natural plant food sources that have antioxidant properties.) Because dark chocolate contains more cocoa solids than other types of chocolate, it naturally contains more flavanols.
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