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.
It’s important to purchase the best dark chocolate you can find. The majority of chocolate on the market is garbage, with very little nutritional value, so always look for the quality stuff with more that 70% cocoa. A lot of places now offer organic dark chocolate, which is even better for you since it reduces that possibilities of eating bad chemicals.
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.
When certain types of oxygen molecules are allowed to travel freely in the body, they cause what’s known as oxidative damage, which is the formation of free radicals. When antioxidant levels in the body are lower than that of free radicals — due to poor nutrition, toxin exposure or other factors — oxidation wreaks havoc in the body. The effect? Accelerated aging, damaged or mutated cells, broken-down tissue, the activation of harmful genes within DNA, and an overloaded immune system.
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.
Allen, R. R., Carson, L., Kwik-Uribe, C., Evans, E. M., & Erdman, J. W.,. (2008, April). Daily consumption of a dark chocolate containing flavanols and added sterol esters affects cardiovascular risk factors in a normotensive population with elevated cholesterol. [Abstract]. Journal of Nutrition. 138(4):725-31. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18356327
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."
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.”
With this study we present a comprehensive survey of the total antioxidant capacity in foods. Earlier small-scale studies from other laboratories have included from a few up to a few hundred samples [20-22,29-31], and in 2007 the U.S. Department of Agriculture presented the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods report including 277 food samples . These studies have been done using different antioxidant assays for measuring antioxidant capacity making it difficult to compare whole lists of foods, products and product categories. Still, a food that has a high total antioxidant capacity using one antioxidant assay will most likely also be high using another assay [20-22]. Consequently, the exact value will be different but the ranking of the products will be mainly the same whichever assay is used. In the present extensive study, the same validated method has been used on all samples, resulting in comparable measures, thus enabling us to present a complete picture of the relative antioxidant potential of the samples.
Sugar has a bittersweet reputation when it comes to health. Sugar occurs naturally in all foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, and dairy. Consuming whole foods that contain natural sugar is okay. Plant foods also have high amounts of fiber, essential minerals, and antioxidants, and dairy foods contain protein and calcium.
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.
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.
Cacao contains more than 300 compounds, including protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, iron, zinc, copper, calcium and magnesium, according to a Natural News article. “Magnesium helps to build strong bones and is a muscle relaxant associated with feelings of calmness,” the report adds. “Cacao is also high in sulfur, which helps form strong nails and hair.”
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.
Currently, there are no government guidelines for consumers on how many antioxidants to consume and what kind of antioxidants to consume in their daily diet, as is the case with vitamins and minerals. A major barrier to such guidelines is a lack of consensus among nutrition researchers on uniform antioxidant measurements. Scientists will soon attempt to develop such a consensus at the First International Congress on Antioxidant Methods, held June 16-18 at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando, Fla., with the ultimate goal of developing better nutritional data for consumers. ACS is the principal sponsor of the meeting.
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.
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.
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.
MHC took part in planning the study design, contributed to database management, sample procurement, drafting and writing of manuscript. BLH took part in planning the study design and was responsible for assay development and validation, sample analysis, and writing of manuscript, SKB took part in planning the study design and was the database creator and contributed to database management and writing of manuscript, SD, LS, CW, HS, IB, NB, WCW, KMP and DRJ contributed to sample procurement and writing of manuscript, KH, YU and CS contributed to sample procurement and analysis and writing of manuscript, RB was responsible for funding and study design and contributed to sample procurement and writing of manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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