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.
But these benefits could have an even bigger impact: Flavonoids foundin dark chocolate may someday be useful in potentially treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. One study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found an association between eating chocolate and reduced risk of cognitive decline, perhaps due to protective effects of the cocoa flavanols.
Many foods have way more sugar than you realize. The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines say no more than 10 percent of your calories should come from added sugar—for a 2,000 calorie diet that’s 200. The American Heart Association is stricter, with a limit of 100 calories for women and 150 for men. “The term ‘added sugars’ indicates sugars that are added to processed and prepared foods, as well as sugars added at the time of consumption,” says Dr. Saltzman. “Most research focuses on these added sugars as potentially harmful.” For example, if you have a Milky Way, which contains 31 grams (124 calories) of added sugar, you’re practically at your limit already. Bottom line? Read nutrition labels to see how much you’re getting. Next, read up on the 40 sneaky names for sugar you may not recognize.
The battle of good and evil between these two white crystals rages on in our bodies. Indeed, the assault on our bodies from overconsuming sugar is wreaking metabolic havoc. When you overeat sugar, this causes an increase in insulin (a fat-storing hormone), insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes, whereas eating more salt actually can improve type 2 diabetes.
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.
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)
Just like any other supplement, it doesn’t seem that it’s beneficial or even necessarily safe to consume high doses of antioxidants in supplement form. For example, because during exercise oxygen consumption can increase by a factor of more than 10, taking high doses of antioxidants might interfere with proper exercise recovery. (12) Other research has shown that high-dose antioxidant supplementation may interfere with the cardiovascular benefits of exercise, have negative effects on the body’s natural anti-cancer activities, and affect how the body balances levels of different chemicals and nutrients on its own. (13, 14)
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:

Considering that heart disease is the number one killer and that dark chocolate has been shown to substantially reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, I believe regular chocolate consumption can be a good thing. Always choose above 70-percent cacao and select your brand wisely so as to keep your cadmium, lead, and sugar low while maximizing the antioxidant and flavonol benefits.
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.

An unhealthy liver is just one of the many effects of sugar on the body, especially when it’s consumed in large amounts.  “Fructose is metabolized in the liver, and consuming too much can lead to the production of fat in the liver, which is another path to adverse metabolic health,” Dr. Malik says. According to the University of California San Francisco, rates of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, as well as scarring of the liver, have doubled since 1980. Follow these 9 tricks to reverse a sugar binge.

Increasing evidence shows that chronic infections, like those that result from dental problems, play a role in the development of heart disease.9 Most researchers believe that the connection stems from the body's inflammatory response to infection. Luckily, this works both ways. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will decrease your risk of common illnesses, which reduces the chance that they’ll become a more serious condition later on.
According to the FDA, chocolates are unfortunately one of the most common sources of undeclared milk linked to consumer reactions. In addition, recent testing by the FDA found that you can’t always tell if a dark chocolate has milk just by reading the ingredient list. Many manufacturers make their dark chocolate on the same equipment that they use for milk chocolate production so traces of milk end up in the dark chocolate too. (25)  If you’re concerned about milk possibly being in your dark chocolate, contact the manufacturer.
Along the way, the benefits of dark chocolate have pushed its popularity. You’ve probably seen dark chocolate listed among “must-eat healthy foods” in compilations written by various nutrition experts. Yet depending on how it’s made, dark chocolate also can be high in calories, fat, sugar, and preservatives. So, what’s the real deal? Is dark chocolate healthy?
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.
To date, studies have confirmed that chronic inflammation contribute to factors that increase your risk of developing cancer, including DNA mutations and cancer cell growth. Research has confirmed that the antioxidants in dark chocolate have a strong ability to fight the DNA damage that could lead to cancer development, as well as reduce certain inflammation enzymes that could encourage its growth (12).
Cherries have been touted as the new wonder fruit, and based on their antioxidant content we can see why! Cherries are rich in the flavonoids, isoqueritrin and queritrin, which act as antioxidants and work to eliminate byproducts of oxidative stress, therefore slowing down the aging process. Cherries are also loaded with Queritrin, a flavonoid believed to be one of the most potent anticancer agents.
These broccoli cousins have plenty of bitter sulforaphane as well as compounds called isothiocyanates, which detoxify cancer-causing substances in the body before they can do their dirty work. In one Dutch study, guys who ate Brussels sprouts daily for three weeks had 28 percent less genetic damage (gene damage is a root cause of cancer) than those who didn’t eat sprouts. You won’t believe the way Brussels sprouts are grown.
Chocolate’s lengthy history is believed to go all the way back to 1900 B.C. This is when the the Aztec civilization believed that cacao seeds were a gift of Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom. They used the seeds to prepare a bitter, frothy beverage that also included spices, wine or corn puree. (22) It was very different from today’s super sweet milk chocolate treats but closer to a very minimally processed dark chocolate made from raw cacao.
Good news for all chocolate lovers! Chocolate is actually quite healthy so no need to feel guilty indulging in your chocolate love every now and then. Dark chocolates and cocoa pack a big antioxidant punch and are rich in flavanols and polyphenols. A popular study conducted by Harvard experts and published in the online Journal Heart suggests that is actually good for your heart especially, the one with 70% cocoa. Too much chocolate can, of course, add to you daily calorific intake so moderation is the key here.
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. 
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.”
Forget carrots—dark chocolate can improve your eyesight too, according to research published in the journal Physiology & Behavior. The researchers found that participants who consumed dark chocolate with 720 mg of cocoa flavanols experienced enhanced visual performance—like detecting motion and reading low contrast letters—likely due to the increased blood flow to the retina and brain. 
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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.
There is not necessarily a direct relationship between the antioxidant content of a food sample consumed and the subsequent antioxidant activity in the target cell. Factors influencing the bioavailability of phytochemical antioxidants, include the food matrix, absorption and metabolism [24-27]. Also, the methods measuring total antioxidant capacity do not identify single antioxidant compounds, and they are therefore of limited use when investigating the mechanisms involved. This is however, not the scope of this article. With the present study, food samples with high antioxidant content are identified, but further investigation into each individual food and phytochemical antioxidant compound is needed to identify those which may have biological relevance and the mechanisms involved.
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]

The Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands of Panama, who drink roughly three cups of a cacao beverage daily and have a very low prevalence of hypertension, myocardial infarction and stroke compared to those on the mainland, are a good example of chocolate’s benefits at work. In addition, studies have found that their blood pressure doesn’t rise with age (4).


A study published in International Journal of Cardiology had subjects either consume a daily dose of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate or non-flavonoid white chocolate for two weeks. The results showed that flavonoid-rich dark chocolate intake significantly improved heart circulation in healthy adults. On the other hand, white chocolate with zero flavonoids to brag about had no positive health effects on the subjects. (6)
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.
Now that you understand the negative effects of sugar on your body and mind, it’s time to be more careful when choosing foods. The first step is getting educated about how to find added sugars. When it comes to convenience and packaged foods, let the ingredients label be your guide—you’d be surprised how many low carb or “diet” foods contain added sugar.
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.
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.
You’ve heard about the benefits of antioxidants, and thanks to our antioxidant guide, you’ve learned about what they are and what they do for your body and mind. But which fruits and vegetables are the best sources? Here are the 10 fruits and vegetables that are the top sources of antioxidants. All of them are healthy. All of them are delicious. Best of all, they all make great additions to smoothies!

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.
The frequent consumption of small quantities of dark chocolate is linked to lower BMI, according to a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. Chocolate consumption frequency (via a questionnaire) and BMI (weight divided by height in meters squared) were analyzed among 1,018 men and women aged 20 to 85. Mood, activity per 7-day period, fruit and vegetable intake and saturated fat intake were considered and factored into the researchers analysis as well. All in all, the correlation between chocolate consumption and low BMI upheld. The mean age of subjects was 57, of which 68 percent were male, with a BMI of 28 who ate dark chocolate two times per week and exercised about 3.5 times per week. 
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.

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.


Sources of antioxidants in your diet offer much-needed help in counteracting the damage done by things like blue light or sun exposure, a poor diet, smoking or using other drugs, taking medications, toxicity or chemical exposure, even high amounts of stress and other natural factors that increase the risk of age-related problems. In the process of fighting free radical damage, antioxidants protect healthy cells while halting the growth of malignant or cancerous cells.
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.
It’s helpful to understand a little about how sugar is used by the brain. The carbohydrates you eat, including sugars, are broken down into glucose. Your brain needs glucose to function properly. Unfortunately, many people eat much more sugar than they need. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the average American eats the equivalent of about 42 teaspoons of sugar a day. That added sugar comes from various sources, such as table sugar, baked goods, and sugary drinks.

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.
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