In a study conducted by the Hershey Co. and published in Chemistry Central Journal, the total flavanol and polyphenol content as well as antioxidant activity content of dark chocolate and cocoa powder were compared to super fruits like acai, cranberry, blueberry and pomegranate. The dark chocolates, cocoa powders and cocoa beverage in the study all contained natural or non-alkalized cocoa. This is important to note since the alkalinization of cocoa has been shown to destroy healthy polyphenolic compounds.
Frequent exposure to high glucose levels diminishes mental capacity, as higher HbA1c levels have been associated with a greater degree of brain shrinkage. Even in those without diabetes, higher sugar consumption is associated with lower scores on tests of cognitive function. These effects are thought to be due to a combination of hyperglycemia, hypertension, insulin resistance, and elevated cholesterol.
"She can have fresh fruit as the amount of fructose/glucose in fruit is not high. It's also bound in a food matrix, and with the fibre it contains it doesn't get absorbed like white granulated sugar," Catsicas said. "It does not cause high blood sugar and a corresponding insulin response. The portion size is important, though: only 100 to 150g fruit at a time and, as mentioned, only 1–2 portions per day."
Sugar addiction – Eating and drinking foods high in sugar can have a drug-like effect on the brain and lead to sugar addiction. According to research published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, sugar appears to have drug-like effects, which are similar to those caused by addictive drugs. Addiction-like effects may include cravings and a loss of self-control. The research indicates that cravings for sugar may be even stronger than those for certain drugs, such as cocaine.
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.
The protective effect of antioxidants continues to be studied around the world. For instance, men who eat plenty of the antioxidant lycopene (found in tomatoes) may be less likely than other men to develop prostate cancer. Lutein, found in spinach and corn, has been linked to a lower incidence of eye lens degeneration and associated blindness in the elderly. Flavonoids, such as the tea catechins found in green tea, are believed to contribute to the low rates of heart disease in Japan.
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  resulting in lower antioxidant values in processed berry products than in fresh berries.
There are several types of chocolate, as you probably already know. Most people divide chocolate into three categories: white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. The FDA actually does not have a standard of identity for dark chocolate, but the general consensus is that dark chocolate typically contains between 70 percent to 99 percent pure cacoa or cocoa solids. Some set the standard for dark chocolate even lower at 60 percent or less. This can be done since there is no set standard at the moment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A recent study by Swedish researchers found that women who ate high amounts of chocolate — about two candy bars per week — had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke. In a similar study, British researchers also found that people who ate more chocolate were 30 percent less likely to have a stroke. However, researchers added that more study is needed to determine the exact amount and types of flavonoid-rich chocolates that would be most help lessen stroke risk.
It’s important to purchase the best dark chocolate you can find. The majority of chocolate on the market is garbage, with very little nutritional value, so always look for the quality stuff with more that 70% cocoa. A lot of places now offer organic dark chocolate, which is even better for you since it reduces that possibilities of eating bad chemicals.
What Does It All Mean?The antioxidant powerhouses aren’t the ones most people think of. It also means that making little tweaks to the foods we already eat can impact our health in a major way. A daily dose of all-the-kale-you-can-eat will help undo some damaging influence of free radicals, but a casual dash of cinnamon across your fave breakfast bowl will do so much more.
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.
And as it turns out, that kind of emotional eating might not be such a bad thing. You know what kind of havoc stress and its sneaky sidekick cortisol can wreak on your body. Swiss scientists (who else?) found that when very anxious people ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, their stress hormone levels were significantly reduced and the metabolic effects of stress were partially mitigated. After a breakup, break out a dark chocolate bar rather than a pint of ice cream.
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.”
When we’re under stress, our bodies immediately kick into fight-or-flight mode, releasing large amounts of hormones. Surprisingly, the body has the same chemical response when blood sugar is low. After you eat a sweet snack, stress hormones begin to compensate for the crash by raising your blood sugar. The result? Unexplained anxiousness, irritability, and even shakiness.
Studies have found that high intakes of vitamin A, vitamin C and other antioxidants could help prevent or treat several forms of cancer thanks to their ability to control malignant cells in the body and cause cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (destruction) of cancer cells. Retinoic acid, derived from vitamin A, is one chemical that plays important roles in cell development and differentiation as well as cancer treatment.
In the category "Beverages", 283 products were included, from coffee and tea to beer, wine and lemonades. Dry products like coffee beans and dried tea leaves and powders were also included. The highest antioxidant values in this category were found among the unprocessed tea leaves, tea powders and coffee beans. In Table Table22 we present an excerpt of this category and of the analyses of fruit juices. Fifty-four different types of prepared coffee variants procured from 16 different manufacturers showed that the variation in coffees are large, ranging from a minimum of 0.89 mmol/100 g for one type of brewed coffee with milk to 16.33 mmol/100 g for one type of double espresso coffee, the highest antioxidant value of all prepared beverages analyzed in the present study. Other antioxidant rich beverages are red wine, which have a smaller variation of antioxidant content (1.78 to 3.66 mmol/100 g), pomegranate juice, prepared green tea (0.57 to 2.62 mmol/100 g), grape juice, prune juice and black tea (0.75 to 1.21 mmol/100 g) (Table (Table2).2). Beer, soft drinks and ginger ale contain the least antioxidants of the beverages in our study, with drinking water completely devoid of antioxidants.
Make your portion more powerful: A study in the Journal of Nutrition determined that the antioxidant ellagic acid (found in raspberries, pomegranates, walnuts, and cranberries) enhanced the ability of quercetin (an antioxidant found in apples, grapes, onions, and buckwheat) to kill off cancerous cells. Here are some other foods that can help fight cancer.
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.
Such observational studies don't prove that chocolate is responsible for these benefits. However, the consistent and repeated positive results in studies done on cocoa indicate that chocolate does have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. Chocolate has had such a profound effect on so many systems in the human body some authorities are unsure whether to call it a food or a drug.
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.
So what did the study show? The researchers found that the flavanol content of cocoa powder (30.1 milligrams per gram) was significantly greater than all of the other super fruit powders. It was also revealed that dark chocolate’s antioxidant capacity was higher than all of the super fruit juices except pomegranate. The total polyphenol content per serving was also highest for dark chocolate (about 1,000 milligrams per serving), which was significantly higher than all of the fruit juices except pomegranate juice. (11)