There is increasing evidence that antioxidants are more effective when obtained from whole foods, rather than isolated from a food and presented in tablet form – and some supplements can actually increase cancer risk. For instance, vitamin A (beta-carotene) has been associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, but an increase in others, such as lung cancer in smokers, if vitamin A is purified from foodstuffs.

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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
They work to protect the cells by damage caused by oxidants. Oxidants, on the other hand, are free radicals that your body produces to defend itself against bacteria and viruses. When they become too many in number, they may start attacking and harming the cells and even put us at the risk of serious diseases like heart trouble and cancer. You may also encounter oxidants from the external environment from pollutants, smoke or alcohol. Antioxidants help the body by neutralising and removing these oxidants from your bloodstream.
No introductions are needed for this highly treasured food that dates back to 2000 BC. At that time, the Maya from Central America, the first connoisseurs of chocolate, drank it as a bitter fermented beverage mixed with spices or wine. Today, the long rows of chocolate squares sitting neatly on your store shelves are the end result of many steps that begin as a cacao pod, larger than the size of your hand. Seeds (or beans) are extracted from the pod and fermented, dried, and roasted into what we recognize as cocoa beans. The shells of the bean are then separated from the meat, or cocoa nibs. The nibs are ground into a liquid called chocolate liquor, and separated from the fatty portion, or cocoa butter. The liquor is further refined to produce the cocoa solids and chocolate that we eat. After removing the nibs, the cocoa bean is ground into cocoa powder that is used in baking or beverages.
Our results show large variations both between as well as within each food category; all of the food categories contain products almost devoid of antioxidants (Table ​(Table1).1). Please refer to Additional file 1, the Antioxidant Food Table, for the FRAP results on all 3139 products analyzed. The categories "Spices and herbs", "Herbal/traditional plant medicine" and "Vitamin and dietary supplements" include the most antioxidant rich products analyzed in the study. The categories "Berries and berry products", "Fruit and fruit juices", "Nuts and seeds", "Breakfast Cereals", "Chocolate and sweets", "Beverages" and "Vegetables and vegetable products" include most of the common foods and beverages which have medium to high antioxidant values (Table ​(Table1).1). We find that plant-based foods are generally higher in antioxidant content than animal-based and mixed food products, with median antioxidant values of 0.88, 0.10 and 0.31 mmol/100 g, respectively (Table ​(Table1).1). Furthermore, the 75th percentile of plant-based foods is 4.11 mmol/100 g compared to 0.21 and 0.68 mmol/100 g for animal-based and mixed foods, respectively. The high mean value of plant-based foods is due to a minority of products with very high antioxidant values, found among the plant medicines, spices and herbs. In the following, summarized results from the 24 categories are presented.

In my opinion, there is no safe amount of processed or refined sugar. Naturally contained sugars in fruit and vegetables are balanced by the fiber, vitamins, enzymes and other properties of the fruit/vegetable which slow sugar digestion and help the body deal with it more easily. Processed varieties, on the other hand, provide none of these benefits and instead create these harmful effects of sugar in the body:
Dark chocolate is also called semisweet chocolate while extra dark chocolate is often considered the same as bittersweet, although the ratio of cocoa butter to solids may vary between the varieties. (14) According to the FDA, semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate is a sweet chocolate that contains no less than 35 percent (by weight) of pure cocoa. (15) Semisweet and bittersweet are both commonly used in baking, and although the FDA defines them in the same way, bittersweet chocolate typically has a deeper flavor and less sweetness than semisweet chocolate. (16) Unsweetened or baker’s chocolate is usually almost 100 percent cocoa with no sweetness whatsoever.
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.”
You probably know that a candy bar or can of soda aren’t exactly healthy, but you might not be aware of how exactly their sugar content is affecting your body. And while a treat every once in a while is perfectly OK, daily consumption has been shown to have pretty significant negative health outcomes. A study at the University of California San Francisco found that drinking a 20-ounce soda on a daily basis was equivalent to 4.6 years of cell aging, the same as smoking cigarettes—and this cell aging has previously been linked with a shorter human lifespan. The things that happen to your body when you stop eating sugar, on the other hand, are beneficial to your health.

If you eat a piece of fruit, for example, you’re not only consuming sugar (in the form of fructose), but also fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. All of these things help feed the healthy bacteria in your gut and help your body metabolize the sugar found in the fruit. Instead of craving more and more sugar, you’ll stay satiated for a longer period without the massive blood sugar spikes from consuming a treat with a bunch of refined sugar, she says.
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.
The ORAC scores above are based on weight. This means that it might not be practical to eat high amounts of all of these antioxidant foods. Other high antioxidant foods not listed above, which are still great sources and highly beneficial, include common foods like tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes, pomegranates, strawberries, kale, broccoli, grapes or red wine, squash, and wild-caught salmon. Try to consume at least three to four servings daily of these high antioxidant foods (even more is better) for optimal health.
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.
…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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My kids typically make good food choices on their own and have become rather adventurous eaters since they aren’t restricted or expected to only consume chicken fingers or hamburgers when we aren’t at home. For instance, my two year old loves broccoli, olives, sardines and other healthy foods. Make the good foods readily available and make the unhealthy ones few and far between…
Let’s not forget about our little ones! When New York City public schools reduced the amount of sugar in their lunches and breakfasts, their academic ranking increased 15.7% (previously, the greatest improvement ever seen had been 1.7%).11 The study also eliminated artificial colors, synthetic flavoring, and two preservatives, showing the importance of natural ingredients for children.
Promotes weight loss – 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.
Eleanor Healy is a writer with a passion for holistic health. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), Reiki Master/Teacher and former Child and Youth Care worker, she spent many years navigating the choppy waters of burnout and trying to stay balanced in a demanding world. Her mission is to offer practical tips and techniques from her own trial and error process, so that you can live your best life! Follow Eleanor on Facebook and keep in touch with her at [email protected].

All types of eggplant are rich in bitter chlorogenic acid, which protects against the buildup of heart-threatening plaque in artery walls (and fights cancer, too!), say USDA scientists in Beltsville, Maryland. In lab studies, eggplant lowered cholesterol and helped artery walls relax, which can cut your risk of high blood pressure. Here are some more foods that can help lower your blood pressure.
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.

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.
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.

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.
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