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. 
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.
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.
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).

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate is far more filling, offering more of a feeling of satiety than its lighter-colored sibling. That is, dark chocolate lessens cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods. So if indulging in a bit of healthy dark chocolate should not only make it easy for you to stick to the small portion recommended for optimal health, but it should make it easier for you to stick to your diet in general. Jackpot!
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)
For another berry rich in antioxidant power, strawberries are an excellent choice. These berries are another one of the most highly concentrated antioxidant fruits. The antioxidants found in strawberries have been shown to fight carcinogens and LDL, cholesterol that is known to cause heart disease. Strawberries contain, anthocyanins, the antioxidants that protect against cardiovascular diseases. They are also a great source of vitamin C, which protects your body’s cells from free radical damage.
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.
Every single one of us has both antioxidants and free radicals present inside of our bodies at all times. Some antioxidants are made from the body itself, while we must get others from our diets by eating high antioxidant foods that double as anti-inflammatory foods. Our bodies also produce free radicals as byproducts of cellular reactions. For example, the liver produces and uses free radicals to detoxify the body, while white blood cells send free radicals to destroy bacteria, viruses and damaged cells.
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).
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.
The results demonstrate that there are several thousand-fold differences in antioxidant content of foods. Spices, herbs and supplements include the most antioxidant rich products in our study, some exceptionally high. Berries, fruits, nuts, chocolate, vegetables and products thereof constitute common foods and beverages with high antioxidant values.
An ongoing 40-year study on the effects of chocolate on cognitive function was recently finished. The study used data from the beginning of the study and compared it through cross-sectional study. This might not mean that chocolate makes people smarter—perhaps smart people happen to eat chocolate. Regardless, the study also concluded that all the types of intelligence measured previously were increased by chocolate consumption—along with spoken word recall. 
When it comes to your bone health, yet again salt is the white crystal in shining armor. When we cut our salt intake, to the level that every dietary guideline tells us to, this can cause calcium and magnesium depletion from the body. When our intake of salt goes down, the body seems to pull sodium as well as calcium and magnesium from the bone, likely increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Low salt diets also increase the loss of magnesium in sweat—the body pushing out more magnesium instead of sodium in order to conserve low sodium reserves. All of this can take its toll on the health of our bones. In fact, consuming more salt may protect your bones, whereas consuming a diet high in sugar is clearly harmful. The next time you decide to reach for the sugar bowl, think twice, grabbing the salt shaker instead just may end up saving your life.
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.
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.
Herbal and traditional plant medicines emerged as many of the highest antioxidant-containing products in our study. We speculate that the high inherent antioxidant property of many plants is an important contributor to the herb's medicinal qualities. In our study we identified Sangre de Grado, the sap from the tree trunk of the species Croton lechleri sampled in Peru to have exceptional high antioxidant content. This sap has a long history of indigenous use in South America for wound healing and as an antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral and antihaemorrhagic medicine. Proanthocyanidins are major constituents of this sap [32] and studies have shown that Sangre de Grado limits the transcription of a wide range of pro-inflammatory cytokines and mediators and accelerates the healing of stomach ulcers [33,34] and promotes apoptosis in cancer cells [35]. Other extreme antioxidant rich herbal medicines are Triphala, an Indian Ayurvedic herbal formulation, shown to have anti-inflammatory activity [36], antibacterial and wound healing properties [37,38] and cancer chemopreventive potential [39]. Arjuna, another Auyrvedic formula, has been shown to have health beneficial activities [40,41] while Goshuyu-tou, a traditional Chinese kampo medicine has been shown to significantly reduce the extracellular concentration of NO in the LPS-stimulated Raw 264.7 cells [42].

…Consumption of processed foods (which are laced with sugar) cost the American public more than $54 billion in dental bills each year, so the dental industry reaps huge profits from the programmed addiction of the public to sugar products. …Today we have a nation that is addicted to sugar. In 1915, the national average of sugar consumption (per year) was around 15 to 20 pounds per person. Today the average person consumes his/her weight in sugar, plus over 20 pounds of corn syrup. To add more horrors to these facts there are some people that use no sweets and some who use much less than the average figure, which means that there is a percentage of the population that consume a great deal more refined sugar than their body weight. The human body cannot tolerate this large amount of refined carbohydrates. The vital organs in the body are actually damaged by this gross intake of sugar.

Choosing the best food sources of antioxidants can go a long way in enhancing your health and fighting disease. A class of compounds found in a wide range of foods (especially plant-derived foods), antioxidants help protect against the damaging effects of free radicals. It's thought that increasing your intake of the best food sources of antioxidants can help fend off a host of major health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and some forms of cancer.
Candy as a diabetes foe? Sure enough. In a small Italian study, participants who ate a candy bar's worth of dark chocolate once a day for 15 days saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by nearly half. "Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production," says lead researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D., a professor at the University of L'Aquila in Italy. "And that helps control insulin sensitivity."
"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." 
The new study is more complete and accurate (thanks to updated technology) than previous USDA antioxidant data and includes more foods than the previous study, the researchers say. They analyzed antioxidant levels in over 100 different foods, including fruits and vegetables. In addition, the new study includes data on spices and nuts for the first time.
Of all the cruciferous vegetables, broccoli stands out as the most concentrated source of vitamin C, plus it possesss the flavonoids necessary for vitamin C to recycle effectively. Also concentrated in broccoli are the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. But, the antioxidant which is the real standout in broccoli is indole-3-carbinol, a powerful antioxidant compound and anti-carcinogen found to not only hinder the growth of breast, cervical and prostate cancer, but also has been shown to boost liver function.
Refined carbs, like those in white bread and pasta, quickly cause a rise in glucose in the bloodstream, so you might feel extra energized—for a while. But this short-term fix can actually leave you more sluggish later on (when you eventually crash). Instead, opt for protein-rich snacks between meals, such as Greek yogurt with fresh berries or fresh veggies and hummus. They help stabilize blood sugar and keep you going longer.
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.
A plant-based diet protects against chronic oxidative stress-related diseases. Dietary plants contain variable chemical families and amounts of antioxidants. It has been hypothesized that plant antioxidants may contribute to the beneficial health effects of dietary plants. Our objective was to develop a comprehensive food database consisting of the total antioxidant content of typical foods as well as other dietary items such as traditional medicine plants, herbs and spices and dietary supplements. This database is intended for use in a wide range of nutritional research, from in vitro and cell and animal studies, to clinical trials and nutritional epidemiological studies.
Dark chocolate is made from cacao or cocoa. All chocolate starts as harvested cacao beans from the plant’s seed pods. Once harvested, the cacao beans are typically fermented and dried before being sent off to factories for further production. Pure cacao and pure cocoa powder both have antioxidants and health benefits. However, raw cacao powder is different because it does not undergo any heating and therefore has more nutrients and health properties. Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans so it retains more of its natural goodness while cocoa powder is typically heated at much higher temperatures. Dutched cocoa also gets washed in a potassium solution that neutralizes its acidity, which gives it a darker color and a more mellow flavor. (13)
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.
Unlike sugar, salt also appears beneficial to our brain. Indeed, sodium helps to move vitamin C into the brain, whereas glucose competes with its uptake. Sugar also depletes the body of B vitamins, including thiamine, which is extremely important for brain health. This suggests that consuming salt is indeed good, and even necessary, for brain health whereas overconsuming sugar wreaks havoc.
Dark chocolate may have something in common with carrots: Researchers from the University of Reading in England tested the eyesight of 30 healthy adults, 18 to 25 years old, after they ate white and dark chocolates. The subjects performed better on vision tests after eating the dark chocolate. It could be that the flavanols in dark chocolate, which improve blood flow to the brain, improve blood flow to the retina as well — and white chocolate doesn’t have nearly the same amount of flavanols as dark chocolate.
The antioxidant measurements have been conducted over a period of eight years, from 2000 to 2008. The samples were procured from local stores and markets in Scandinavia, USA and Europe and from the African, Asian and South American continents. Many of the samples of plant material, like berries, mushrooms and herbs, were handpicked. Commercially procured food samples were stored according to the description on the packing and analyzed within four weeks. Handpicked samples were either stored at 4°C and analyzed within three days or frozen at -20°C and analyzed within four weeks. Products that needed preparation such as coffee, tea, processed vegetables etc. were prepared on the day of analysis. Furthermore, all samples were homogenized, dry samples were pulverized and solid samples were chopped in a food processor. After homogenizing, analytical aliquots were weighed. Included in the database are 1113 of the food samples obtained from the US Department of Agriculture National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program. They were collected, homogenized, and stored as previously described [17]. Three replicates were weighed out for each sample. All samples were extracted in water/methanol, except vegetable oils which were extracted in 2-propanol and some fat-rich samples which were extracted in water/2-propanol. The extracts were mixed, sonicated in ice water bath for 15 min, mixed once more and centrifuged in 1.5 mL tubes at 12.402 × g for 2 min at 4°C. The concentration of antioxidants was measured in triplicate of the supernatant of the centrifuged samples.
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.

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.
One of the immediate effects of sugar on the body is the release of more insulin, which regulates blood sugar. Soda is the worst culprit, says Vasanti Malik, ScD, a research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Sugars in beverages are absorbed very quickly, which results in rapid increases in blood glucose and insulin,” she says. “Over time this can lead to insulin resistance [in which the body needs more and more insulin to be effective], and place an individual on a pathway to adverse metabolic health.” Naturally occurring sugars, as in fruit, don’t have the same negative effects because they’re paired with fiber, which helps slow absorption.
Because refined dietary sugars lack minerals and vitamins, they must draw upon the body's micro-nutrient stores in order to be metabolized into the system. When these storehouses are depleted, metabolization of cholesterol and fatty acid is impeded, contributing to higher blood serum triglycerides, cholesterol, promoting obesity due to higher fatty acid storage around organs and in sub-cutaneous tissue folds.
Refined carbs, like those in white bread and pasta, quickly cause a rise in glucose in the bloodstream, so you might feel extra energized—for a while. But this short-term fix can actually leave you more sluggish later on (when you eventually crash). Instead, opt for protein-rich snacks between meals, such as Greek yogurt with fresh berries or fresh veggies and hummus. They help stabilize blood sugar and keep you going longer.

Based on concentrations of things like lutein and other carotenoids, examples of antioxidant foods that protect vision include spinach, kale, berries, broccoli and even egg yolks. Research shows that high-lutein sources like spinach are proven to help decrease eye related degeneration and improve visual acuity. (5) Similarly, flavonoid antioxidants found in berries, such as bilberries or grapes (also a great source of the antioxidant resveratrol), may be especially beneficial at supporting vision into older age.
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.
Artichoke hearts are not only a delicacy, they also are packed with free radical fighting antioxidants too! While the fresh ones are in season in the spring, you can get bottled artichoke hearts all year around. Eat them as part of an antipasti platter, add them to your salads and in springtime, cook them up with some homemade aioli dip. Delicious!
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. 
Cocoa is rich in plant chemicals called flavanols that may help to protect the heart. Dark chocolate contains up to 2-3 times more flavanol-rich cocoa solids than milk chocolate. Flavanols have been shown to support the production of nitric oxide (NO) in the endolethium (the inner cell lining of blood vessels) that helps to relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow, thereby lowering blood pressure. [1,2] Flavanols in chocolate can increase insulin sensitivity in short term studies; in the long run this could reduce risk of diabetes. [3,4]
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.
The first high antioxidant foods that probably come to mind is probably fruits and vegetables, and for good reason! They rich in antioxidants and other healthy food components, such as slow release carbohydrates, protein and fiber. Here are the top 15 antioxidant fruits and vegetables commonly available in the U.S. Figures reflect antioxidant content in millimoles (mmol) per 100 g.
"The bottom line is the same: eat more fruits and veggies," says Ronald L. Prior, Ph.D., a chemist and nutritionist with the USDA's Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center in Little Rock, Ark., and lead author of the study. "This study confirms that those foods are full of benefits, particularly those with higher levels of antioxidants. Nuts and spices are also good sources."

Stresses the Liver: “When we eat fructose, it goes to the liver. If liver glycogen is low, such as after a run, the fructose will be used to replenish it (3).However, most people aren’t consuming fructose after a long workout and their livers are already full of glycogen. When this happens, the liver turns the fructose into fat (2). Some of the fat gets shipped out, but part of it remains in the liver. The fat can build up over time and ultimately lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (4, 5, 6).”