Another study published in 2015 titled followed the health of over 20,000 people for 11 years. The study concluded that “cumulative evidence suggests that higher chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events” and that “there does not appear to be any evidence to say that chocolate should be avoided in those who are concerned about cardiovascular risk.” Among subjects who consumed the most chocolate, 12 percent developed or died of cardiovascular disease during the study compared to 17.4 percent of those who didn’t eat chocolate. (7) This doesn’t give anyone license to eat a chocolate bar each day, but it’s impressive that this large and lengthy study does appear to show a positive connection between chocolate consumption and heart health.
An excerpt of the 425 spices and herbs analyzed in our study are presented in Table ​Table5.5. The study includes spices and herbs from 59 different manufacturers or countries. Twenty seven single products are in the range 100 to 465 mmol/100 g, but the variation is from 0.08 mmol/100 g in raw garlic paste procured in Japan, to 465 mmol/100 g in dried and ground clove purchased in Norway. Sorted by antioxidant content, clove has the highest mean antioxidant value, followed by peppermint, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, saffron and estragon, all dried and ground, with mean values ranging from 44 to 277 mmol/100 g. When analyzed in fresh samples compared to dried, oregano, rosemary and thyme have lower values, in the range of 2.2 to 5.6 mmol/100 g. This is also true for basil, chives, dill and parsley. In addition to common spices and culinary herbs, we have also analyzed other herbs, like birch leaves, wild marjoram and wood cranesbill among others. Details on all herbs can be found in Additional file 1, the Antioxidant Food Table.
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.
Most of the spices and herbs analyzed have particularly high antioxidant contents. Although spices and herbs contribute little weight on the dinner plate, they may still be important contributors to our antioxidant intake, especially in dietary cultures where spices and herbs are used regularly. We interpret the elevated concentration of antioxidants observed in several dried herbs compared to fresh samples, as a normal consequence of the drying process leaving most of the antioxidants intact in the dried end product. This tendency is also seen in some fruits and their dried counterparts. Thus, dried herbs and fruit are potentially excellent sources of antioxidants.
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.
Sugar addiction is a real and growing concern for a large majority of the world’s population. But how exactly does this happen? The Huffington Post explains that when a person consumes sugar, the tongue’s taste buds become activated and send signals to the brain, “lighting up reward pathways and causing a surge of feel-good hormones, like dopamine, to be released.”
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!

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.
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.
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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.
The occasional candy or cookie can give you a quick burst of energy (or “sugar high”) by raising your blood sugar levels fast. When your levels drop as your cells absorb the sugar, you may feel jittery and anxious (a.k.a. the dreaded “sugar crash”). But if you’re reaching into the candy jar too often, sugar starts to have an effect on your mood beyond that 3 p.m. slump: Studies have linked a high sugar intake to a greater risk of depression in adults.

The average American consumes an astounding 2-3 pounds of sugar each week, which is not surprising considering that highly refined sugars in the forms of sucrose (table sugar), dextrose (corn sugar), and high-fructose corn syrup are being processed into so many foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, mayonnaise, peanut butter, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, and a plethora of microwave meals.


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.

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.
I often hear the argument that sugar is ok in moderation and that eliminating any “food group” is dangerous. Certainly, avoiding an actual macronutrient category completely (carbohydrate, protein or fat) would be problematic, but sugar in itself is not a food group. Though sugar in some form is naturally present in many foods, by itself, it contains:
Most common fruits, vegetables and herbs in the diet that contain antioxidants include forms like vitamin E, lutein, vitamin C, beta-carotene, flavonoids and lycopene. While there is currently no official recommended daily allowance for antioxidants or antioxidant foods, generally speaking the more you consume each day from real foods in your diet the better.

Aviram M, Rosenblat M, Gaitini D, Nitecki S, Hoffman A, Dornfeld L, Volkova N, Presser D, Attias J, Liker H, Hayek T. Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation. Clin Nutr. 2004;23:423–433. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2003.10.002. [PubMed] [CrossRef]

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.
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.

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.
In early humans, this stimulus helped lead them to calorie-rich foods, which aided survival when food was scare. But now this primitive drive contributes to our epidemics of obesity and diabetes. The behavioral and neurobiochemical characteristics of substance abuse and overeating are quite similar, and the idea of food addiction is gaining ground among scientists.
Protects against sun –The flavonols can protect against sun-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration. If you are out in the sun, dark chocolate can reduce your possibilities of getting sun burned or just help not to burn your skin as much. And if you were to get sun burned, it can help you heal quicker.

Eating a diet that’s high in added sugar is bad news for your heart, according to a major 2014 study. The researchers found that eating more than the recommended amount of added sugar may increase your risk of dying from heart disease. Even if you go to the gym and eat your greens regularly, you aren’t immune from the effects of sugar on your health. Eating a high-sugar diet can set you up for disease, even if you’re otherwise healthy, according to a new study. Researchers found unhealthy levels of fat in the blood and livers of men who ate a high-sugar diet, which may increase the risk of heart disease, they report.
Many of us take the bait at the word “antioxidant,” buying health and beauty products without knowing exactly how these mysterious compounds actually benefit us. Let's clear that up: “Antioxidants act like little bodyguards to protect our cells from damage that can lead to premature aging and disease,” explains Cynthia Sass, Health’s contributing nutrition editor. They neutralize harmful free radicals, molecules that play a role in cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and more.
The American Heart Association, along with the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, recommend getting antioxidants from whole foods and a wide variety of foods. While it’s always ideal, and usually more beneficial, to get antioxidants or other nutrients directly from real food sources, certain types may also be helpful when consumed in supplement form.
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.
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.

Glucose is essential for energy production throughout the body, however, it is important to keep blood sugar levels balanced as opposed to experiencing the peaks and troughs that occur when we binge on sugary snacks. Following the consumption of sugar, the pancreas releases insulin to help transfer glucose to the cells, meaning we may experience a rush of energy. Once used up, we can experience a dip in energy as the body demands more sugar to start the cycle all over again. It is not hard to imagine that the higher the sugar peak, the more extreme the sugar dip that will follow.
Sugary drinks, candy, baked goods, and sweetened dairy are the main sources of added sugar. But even savory foods, like breads, tomato sauce, and protein bars, can have sugar, making it all too easy to end up with a surplus of the sweet stuff. To complicate it further, added sugars can be hard to spot on nutrition labels since they can be listed under a number of names, such as corn syrup, agave nectar, palm sugar, cane juice, or sucrose. (See more names for sugar on the graphic below.)

The FRAP assay of Benzie and Strain [13] was used with minor modifications that allowed quantification of most water- and fat-soluble antioxidants [16,17]. A Technicon RA 1000 system (Technicon instruments corporation, New York, USA) was used for the measurements of absorption changes that appear when the TPTZ-Fe3+ complex reduces to the TPTZ-Fe2+ form in the presence of antioxidants. An intense blue color with absorption maximum at 593 nm develops. The measurements were performed at 600 nm after 4 min incubation. An aqueous solution of 500 μmol/L FeSO4 × 7 H2O was used for calibration of the instrument. Validation of the assay is described in Halvorsen et al. 2002 [17]. Briefly, the within-day repeatability measured as relative standard deviation (RSD) in standard solutions ranged from 0.4% to 6%. The between-day repeatability was < 3%. The variation in the values for replicate food items obtained from the same source were typically between 3 and 10 RSD%.


Obviously, not all chocolate is created equal. To get the most benefits associated with dark chocolate, you want to steer clear of any of the candy bar varieties (even if they are “gluten-free” or “Paleo”) and be sure to choose a bar that contains at least a 75 percent cacao content. This will ensure there are minimal added sugars, so you get the bittersweet goodness without the damaging effects of sugar.
Did you know up to 68 percent of people might not get the proper amounts of magnesium, an important player in over 300 bodily processes? Dark chocolate is a solid source of the mineral, says Aragon. About 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate, two squares of that Trader Joe’s dark chocolate, packs about 228 mg magnesium, putting you well on your way to the 400 mg recommended a day.
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.”
not always easy to spot sugar on the ingredients list, even when it is added. More than 60 names appear on labels, all of which mean sugar was added to the product. It’s no wonder cutting sugar is a challenge. Anything with sugar, syrup or sweetener as part of the name qualifies. Look for “ose” words, such as fructose, glucose and sucrose, for other potential sugar sources. Look for lower-sugar versions of the foods you consume.

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.

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.
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)
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.
What do free radicals do exactly, and why are they so destructive? The body uses antioxidants to prevent itself from the damage caused by oxygen. Electrons exist in pairs; free radicals are missing an electron. This is their weapon of sorts. They “react” with just about anything they come into contact with, robbing cells and compounds of one of their electrons. This makes the affected cell or compound unable to function and turns some cells into “electron-seeking muggers,” leading to a chain reaction in the body and the proliferation of free radicals. Free radicals then damage DNA, cellular membranes and enzymes.
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.

If you have high blood sugar, you could be on the road to diabetes already. “Insulin resistance requires the pancreas to produce more insulin since tissues are not as sensitive to it,” Ed Saltzman, MD, a scientist in the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University says. “Over time, the pancreas can become fatigued by this excess production and stop being able to secrete adequate insulin. When this occurs, type 2 diabetes may develop.” These are the sneaky sources of added sugar you don’t realize you’re eating.
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.
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.
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It’s very important with Cinnamon, Clove and Turmeric to not overdo it…too much Cinnamon is toxic in high doses and in high doses is also bad for the kidneys/liver (Ceylon Cinnamon is better than Cassia Cinnamon in this regard), too much Clove can burn the esophagus and be hard on the stomach lining and too much Turmeric is a blood thinner (so extra important to back off a week or 2 before any surgeries) and can exacerbate acid reflux. Turmeric also requires pepper and oil for the beneficial antioxidants to be absorbed into the body. It may be best to use these spices in “spice” quantities and not use as a supplement…a pinch, or an 1/8 t. or per the measurements called for in a recipe.
Are you familiar with Dragon’s Blood? (Hint: it is NOT the secret ingredient in Gandalf’s potions.) Also known as Sangre de Grado, this sap from a tree grown in Peru happens to contain the highest antioxidant content of 3,100 foods and beverages measured worldwide. Now before you run to the nearest health food store looking for this special elixir, keep in mind that there are plenty of food items with high antioxidant values.
Try stevia for a great sugar substitute. Stevia comes from a leaf and does not affect blood glucose levels. It is a great sugar alternative, especially for those with diabetes. Stevia comes in various forms like liquid drops or powders. You can purchase it in packets as well. Some of the brand names for stevia are Truvia, Sweet Leaf, Stevia In The Raw, and PureVia.
I have always loved dark chocolate, and I actually prefer it over other types of chocolate! Because of that, it makes me really excited to hear that there are some health benefits to eating it! It’s interesting how you point out that dark chocolate has antioxidants that stimulate the lining of the arteries so that blood flow can improve. Blood flow is actually something that many people in my family struggle with. I’ll have to suggest they start eating more dark chocolate! I imagine that giving them dark chocolate would be a great gift and also a way to help them out!
As demonstrated in the present study, the variation in the antioxidant values of otherwise comparable products is large. Like the content of any food component, antioxidant values will differ for a wide array of reasons, such as growing conditions, seasonal changes and genetically different cultivars [46,58], storage conditions [59-61] and differences in manufacturing procedures and processing [62-64]. Differences in unprocessed and processed plant food samples are also seen in our study where processed berry products like jam and syrup have approximately half the antioxidant capacity of fresh berries. On the other hand, processing may also enhance a foods potential as a good antioxidant source by increasing the amount of antioxidants released from the food matrix which otherwise would be less or not at all available for absorption [65]. Processing of tomato is one such example where lycopene from heat-processed tomato sauce is more bioavailable than unprocessed tomato [66]. The large variations in antioxidant capacity observed in the present study emphasize the importance of using a comprehensive antioxidant database combined with a detailed system for food registration in clinical and epidemiological studies.

Sugary foods are addictive, giving us a quick 'fix' that tempts us back time and time again. Foods high in sugar have been shown to activate the reward pathway in the brain by releasing dopamine, similar to that of addictive drugs. The nutrient chromium could help to restore normal insulin function and supplementation has been shown to contribute to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels and to reduce sugar and carbohydrate cravings. I recommend Lepicol Lighter (£17.99), a new supplement which contains 7 strains of live bacteria, chromium, glucomannan and psyllium husk fibres which increase satiety and support healthy bowel movements.
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