As we mentioned earlier, dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidant compounds that help fight the DNA damage that causes aging symptoms like wrinkles, graying hair, and disease. In fact, research shows that just a single serving of cacao contains more phenolic antioxidants than most foods and more antioxidants than many Americans get on average per day (5).

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.
Among dark chocolate’s most researched benefit is its role in preventing heart disease. British researchers analyzed seven studies on chocolate and cardiovascular health involving more than 114,000 people in the United States, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and Sweden and found that people who ate more chocolate significantly reduced their risk for heart disease. Researchers concluded that people who ate the most chocolate weekly had a 37 percent lower risk of any heart disease than those who ate the least amounts of dark chocolate.
Legally, milk chocolate only needs to be at least 10 percent pure chocolate with at least 3.39 percent milk fat and at least 12 percent milk solids. (17)  Studies have shown that the proteins in milk might reduce the absorption of the healthy antioxidants from cocoa. What’s the problem with milk? Milk actually appears to bind itself to the flavonoids in chocolate, making them unavailable to our bodies. (18) This is why milk chocolate is not a good antioxidant source. It’s also why you don’t want to drink milk with your dark chocolate.

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Along with antioxidant foods, certain herbs, spices and essential oils derived from nutrient-dense plants are extremely high in healing antioxidant compounds. Here is another list of the herbs you can try adding to your diet for increased protection against disease. Many of these herbs/spices are also available in concentrated essential oil form. Look for 100 percent pure (therapeutic grade) oils, which are highest in antioxidants.

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.

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.

In the brain, excess sugar impairs both our cognitive skills and our self-control (having a little sugar stimulates a craving for more). Sugar has drug-like effects in the reward center of the brain. Scientists have proposed that sweet foods—along with salty and fatty foods—can produce addiction-like effects in the human brain, driving loss of self-control, overeating, and subsequent weight gain.

Elevated blood glucose harms blood vessels. Blood vessel damage is the major cause of the vascular complications of diabetes, leading to other problems, such as damage to blood vessels in the brain and eyes causing retinopathy. Studies of long-term diabetics show progressive brain damage leading to deficits in learning, memory, motor speed, and other cognitive functions.
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.

Tension – Although some people reach for a sugary treat to increase energy, sugar may actually zap energy and increase tension. In a small study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18 people rated their tiredness, energy, and tension after eating a candy bar or walking briskly for ten minutes. The group that walked reported higher levels of energy and lower levels of tension. The group that ate a sugary snack reported higher levels of tension than the walkers. The snack group also had a pattern of increased energy after one hour of eating, but two hours later, reported decreased energy and increased tiredness.
“Given chocolate’s rich supply of flavonoids, researchers have also investigated whether it may play a role in cancer prevention. The studies in cancer prevention are still emerging. A recent review of studies on the cancer protective properties of cocoa concluded that the evidence is limited but suggestive. More rigorous studies should be conducted on chocolates’ cancer protective role, concluded the author, because it provides ‘strong antioxidant effects in combination with a pleasurable eating experience.'”
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.
If you have diabetes, too much sugar can lead to kidney damage. The kidneys play an important role in filtering your blood sugar. Once blood sugar levels reach a certain amount, the kidneys start to let excess sugar into your urine. If left uncontrolled, diabetes can damage the kidneys, which prevents them from doing their job in filtering out waste in your blood. This can lead to kidney failure.
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.
Interestingly, the antioxidant content in human breast milk is comparable to that in pomegranate juice, strawberries and coffee and on average higher than the antioxidant content observed in the commercially available infant formulas analyzed in our study. Breakfast cereals are also potential important sources of antioxidants; some of these products have antioxidant contents comparable to berries, which are fairly high, compared to other grain products and may be due to antioxidants added to the products in fortification process.

If you want to increase your intake of high antioxidant foods changing your diet is the way to go. Begin by cutting down on processed foods—which are often devoid of antioxidants and promote free radical formation—and replacing them with fresh vegetables, fruits, and minimally processed grains. If you love bread, switch to whole grain; if you have a sweet tooth, grab a few pieces of dried apples or apricots, or a couple of squares of dark chocolate. And, of course, season your cooking with herbs or spices.

Among the fruits, vegetables and nuts analyzed, 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.
As a colleague and I alluded to in the New York Times, sugar, not salt, is the true addictive white crystal. Indeed, sugar meets the definition of an addictive substance in animals, hitting all the checkboxes for being a substance of abuse including reward, tolerance, bingeing, and withdrawal. And as I show in my book, The Salt Fix, salt may actually be an antidote to sugar addiction.
By now you may have heard about antioxidants – in food articles, from health experts or on nutrition labels. You’ve been told to eat foods that are good for your stomach and those that protect your heart but what about replenishing the cells that make up these critical organs in our body? The buzzword is antioxidants. Let’s begin by understanding some basics.

This is the most antioxidant rich category in the present study and is also the category with largest variation between products. Half of the products have antioxidant values above the 90th percentile of the complete Antioxidant Food Table and the mean and median values are 91.7 and 14.2 mmol/100 g, respectively. The 59 products included originate from India, Japan, Mexico and Peru. Sangre de Grado (Dragon's Blood) from Peru has the highest antioxidant content of all the products in the database (2897.1 mmol/100 g). Other antioxidant rich products are Triphala, Amalaki and Arjuna from India and Goshuyu-tou, a traditional kampo medicine from Japan, with antioxidant values in the range of 132.6 to 706.3 mmol/100 g. Only four products in this category have values less than 2.0 mmol/100 g.
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."  
Plants are humanity's greatest ally in the fight against climate change. Plants soak up carbon dioxide and turn it into leaves and branches. The more trees humans plant, the less heat-trapping carbon pollution in the air. Unfortunately, plants require a lot of water and land, so much that humans might need a new to find a new ally to help draw down all that carbon.
feeling from consuming sugar, which can make it a tough habit to break. You want to feel good, so you continue reaching for the foods that give you that good feeling. Finding other ways to reward yourself can help replace that feel-good response you get from sugar. Slowly reducing your sugar consumption can also be an effective way to break free from the chains of sugar to slowly improve your overall health.

While antioxidant content is important for many reasons (mainly as a protection against free radicals that can cause disease and degeneration of the body), foods with low numbers don’t necessarily have to be banished from your diet. Foods contain other nutrients that will round out your healthy eating regime. This scale is just a useful way to add more antioxidant rich foods into your meals.

Eating sugary foods late at night could lead to a rush in energy at a time when we should be focusing on slowing down and preparing the body to rest. Our 'happy hormone', serotonin is largely produced in the gut and is essential for melatonin production – the 'relaxation' hormone – necessary to aid a good night's sleep. If you're someone who has trouble sleeping, then it might help to reduce the sugar in your diet, and be kinder to your gut.
The deep red color of cherries is due to high levels of anthocyanins, also found in blueberries, which reduce inflammation and help lower cholesterol. Canned tart or sour cherries and dried sweet cherries both scored higher for antioxidants than the sweet, fresh variety. Tart cherries pack an added bonus: melatonin, which might help regulate sleep cycles.
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 average American consumes roughly 12 pounds of chocolate each year, and over $75 billion is spent annually worldwide on chocolate. (1) There is a lot of chocolate eating going on regularly, which is why I want to help you make the smart, healthy choice. That way you can have your chocolate without guilt and with health benefits of dark chocolate to boot!