A study conducted at the University of Oslo in Norway compiled 3,100 food items using the FRAP assay method of measurement, which extracts the antioxidant value of foods and beverages with the scale of millimoles/100 grams. Millimoles are 1/1000 of a mole (a unit of measurement that allows the conversion between atoms/molecules and grams). Using this measurement, antioxidant values are compared on a scale. The FRAP assay is said to be an inexpensive and easy way to measure antioxidant content.

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.
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.
For a report published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2004, scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) performed what is considered to be the most comprehensive analysis of the antioxidant content of commonly consumed foods. The USDA scientists ranked these foods according to their total antioxidant capacity, which is a measure of the antioxidants' ability to neutralize free radicals.
While it may be too soon to truly list improvements in vision as a concrete benefit of dark chocolate, one June 2018 human clinical trial observed how the contrast sensitivity and visual acuity of  thirty participants without pathologic eye disease changed after consuming dark chocolate versus milk chocolate. Researchers found contrast sensitivity and visual acuity were higher two hours after eating a dark chocolate bar compared to eating milk chocolate. The study, however, concludes the duration of these effects and their real-world implications require further testing. (12)
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.
The body can cope with some free radicals and needs them to function effectively. However, the damage caused by an overload of free radicals over time may become irreversible and lead to certain diseases, including heart disease, liver disease and some cancers (such as oral, oesophageal, stomach and bowel cancers). Oxidation can be accelerated by stress, cigarette smoking, alcohol, sunlight, pollution and other factors.
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.

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.


Back when food was way scarcer, our ancient ancestors needed to take every advantage they had to consume high calorie foods. So the human brain evolved to perceive sugar—and fat—as very rewarding, says Schwartz. Today, our brains are still wired for feast or famine, even though you can buy thousands of calories of food for a couple bucks at the local convenience store.  
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.
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).”
We know that glucose and vitamin C have similar chemical structures, so what happens when the sugar levels go up? They compete for one another upon entering the cells. And the thing that mediates the entry of glucose into the cells is the same thing that mediates the entry of vitamin C into the cells. If there is more glucose around, there is going to be less vitamin C allowed into the cell. It doesn't take much: a blood sugar value of 120 reduces the phagocytic index by 75%. So when you eat sugar, think of your immune system slowing down to a crawl.

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.

What your dentist told you when you were a kid is true. “Oral bacteria love sugar just like we do, and when they feast on it, acid gets released as a byproduct,” says Dr. Sanda Moldovan, DDS. “This acid attacks the enamel of the teeth and allows bacteria to penetrate into the deeper layer of the tooth structure, called dentin.” The more sugar you eat, the more acidic the mouth becomes and the faster cavities develop. Plus, sugar feeds yeast growth, which might make the corners of your mouth or tongue red. “This also comes with a velcro-like feeling, or sensitivity to spicy foods,” she says. The sugar link is also a reason why diabetes is one of the diseases your teeth can reveal.
Efforts to mimic nature’s antioxidants have largely failed. In fact, some antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene, are even harmful to health in large doses. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) recommends, “Do not use antioxidant supplements to replace a healthy diet or conventional medical care, or as a reason to postpone seeing a healthcare provider about a medical problem. If you are considering a dietary supplement, first get information on it from reliable sources.” Dietary supplements contain active ingredients, so always check for interactions with your medications.

While it may be too soon to truly list improvements in vision as a concrete benefit of dark chocolate, one June 2018 human clinical trial observed how the contrast sensitivity and visual acuity of  thirty participants without pathologic eye disease changed after consuming dark chocolate versus milk chocolate. Researchers found contrast sensitivity and visual acuity were higher two hours after eating a dark chocolate bar compared to eating milk chocolate. The study, however, concludes the duration of these effects and their real-world implications require further testing. (12)
The world’s love affair with chocolate has only grown over the years. We love it drizzled on ice cream, mixed with warm milk for a delicious beverage, or combined with nuts and caramel for a tempting treat. Chocolate remains one of our favorite indulgences; Americans eat around $18.27 billion worth of chocolate every year—nearly 18 percent of the world’s chocolate confectionary, according to 2015 statistics released by Euromonitor International. And as culinary artists continue to create new ways to experiment with cocoa, dark chocolate has grown in popularity as a rich and intense alternative to milk chocolate.
Although it’s not conclusively proven to be addictive, sugar does seem to have that effect on the brain. “Energy-dense, sweet-tasting foods may lead to reinforcement of consuming those foods in a part of the brain called the limbic system,” Dr. Saltzman says. “In essence, we are training our brains to like and to want these sweet-tasting foods, and this may lead to increased consumption.” Dr. Malik also says sugar may stimulate the pleasure centers of your brain, similar to the way drugs do. Try these surprising ways to kick your sugar addiction.
Rich in nutrients – Chocolate with a high content of cocoa is loaded with nutrients, including a soluble fiber while also rich in iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and potassium. Dark chocolate also contains a slight amount of mono- and polyunsaturated fats – good fats – which are shown to reduce cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Make your portion more powerful: A study in the Journal of Nutrition determined that the anti­oxidant ellagic acid (found in raspberries, pomegranates, walnuts, and cranberries) enhanced the ability of quercetin (an antioxidant found in apples, grapes, onions, and buckwheat) to kill off cancerous cells. Here are some other foods that can help fight cancer.
Before you swap refined sugar for artificial sweeteners, you may want to keep reading. Artificial sweeteners also appear to have several negative effects on the brain. Sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, are not healthy alternatives to sugar. These sweeteners are in a variety of foods and drinks, such as diet soda, sugar-free snacks, and energy drinks.
Studies show that the darker the chocolate, the better. Eat only less-processed chocolate that contains at least 65 percent cacao, recommends Joy DuBost, PhD, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman. Not only does dark chocolate have a higher concentration of antioxidants than milk chocolate, but milk chocolate is also higher in added sugar and unhealthy fats. Still, the daily dose of antioxidants in dark chocolate doesn’t give you license to indulge in a dessert free-for-all — dark chocolate is still loaded with fat and calories — so eat a max of 1 to 2 ounces a day. If you do, research says you’ll reap these 9 benefits.
Juicy and tart Montmorency cherries are your best source of the antioxidant melatonin. Other cherries have it, too, but Montmorency has the most. Melatonin protects the skin against ultraviolet radiation. Researchers have discovered that this powerful little nutrient also helps repair sunburned skin, since 
it stimulates new skin-cell growth. Cherries are also packed with vitamin C, which is needed to build collagen—your skin’s natural “scaffolding” and a wrinkle preventer. Here are some more foods proven to fight wrinkles (and two you should avoid).
When it comes to your kidneys, it's easy to think that salt is the harmful white crystal. This is because we are constantly being told that eating too much salt is stressful on our kidney-shaped organs. However, this does not appear to be true. Indeed, the evidence in the literature shows that overconsuming sugar drives chronic kidney disease, whereas not consuming enough salt can actually cause kidney issues. In fact, one study concluded kidney function actually deteriorates with a low-salt diet due to impaired blood flow to the kidneys.
Over the last few hundred years, the average intake of salt has actually declined. In fact, we now eat one-tenth the amount of salt that we used to consume back in the 1600s in Europe. In those days, we didn't have refrigerators to preserve our food, so everything was packed with salt. During this time of gorging on salt, there wasn’t an obesity or diabetes or hypertension crisis. People back then ate real whole foods and consumed a lot of salt, but they also consumed very little sugar.

And as it turns out, that kind of emotional eating might not be such a bad thing. You know what kind of havoc stress and its sneaky sidekick cortisol can wreak on your body. Swiss scientists (who else?) found that when very anxious people ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, their stress hormone levels were significantly reduced and the metabolic effects of stress were partially mitigated. After a breakup, break out a dark chocolate bar rather than a pint of ice cream.

Health.com is part of the Meredith Health Group. All rights reserved. The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, probable diagnosis, or recommended treatments. All products and services featured are selected by our editors. Health.com may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice. See the Terms of Servicethis link opens in a new tab and Privacy Policythis link opens in a new tab (Your California Rightsthis link opens in a new tab)for more information. Ad Choicesthis link opens in a new tab | EU Data Subject Requeststhis link opens in a new tab


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.
Chocolate milk also contains carbohydrates, which is great for your health, especially if you have been lifting a whole lot of weights. The count of carbohydrates also depends on the product you use. Different products have different content and levels of carbohydrates. Hershey’s Chocolate Milk seems to have the highest carb count whereas Hoods Calorie Countdown has the lowest. The sugar in this will boost your energy and restore it. You will be able to work out harder and better next time you hit the gym. In fact, this will help you enjoy the workout better. If your muscle tissues tear up, this will stop them from getting sore. In fact, they will get repaired on their own.
Glutathione is considered the body’s most important antioxidant because it’s found within the cells and helps boost activities of other antioxidants or vitamins. Glutathione is a peptide consisting of three key amino acids that plays several vital roles in the body, including helping with protein use, creation of enzymes, detoxification, digestion of fats and destruction of cancer cells.

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.


A study conducted at the University of Oslo in Norway compiled 3,100 food items using the FRAP assay method of measurement, which extracts the antioxidant value of foods and beverages with the scale of millimoles/100 grams. Millimoles are 1/1000 of a mole (a unit of measurement that allows the conversion between atoms/molecules and grams). Using this measurement, antioxidant values are compared on a scale. The FRAP assay is said to be an inexpensive and easy way to measure antioxidant content.
So what did the study show? The researchers found that the flavanol content of cocoa powder (30.1 milligrams per gram) was significantly greater than all of the other super fruit powders. It was also revealed that dark chocolate’s antioxidant capacity was higher than all of the super fruit juices except pomegranate. The total polyphenol content per serving was also highest for dark chocolate (about 1,000 milligrams per serving), which was significantly higher than all of the fruit juices except pomegranate juice. (11)
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)
One of my favorite benefits of dark chocolate is its free radical fighting ability. Free radicals are unbalanced compounds created by cellular processes in the body, especially those that fight against environmental toxins we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Antioxidants are the compounds that are believed to neutralize free radicals and protect the body from their damage.
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.
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.

Dark chocolate is also being touted as a cholesterol-lowering superfood. It’s the cocoa butter that does the trick, DuBost explains. Cocoa butter contains oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat — the same fat you find in heart-healthy olive oil. Scientists believe that this monounsaturated fat can actually raise your HDL, or good, cholesterol. However, DuBost says, many of the studies on chocolate and good cholesterol are short-term, and it may be premature to say that chocolate is a cholesterol cure-all.
The body can cope with some free radicals and needs them to function effectively. However, the damage caused by an overload of free radicals over time may become irreversible and lead to certain diseases, including heart disease, liver disease and some cancers (such as oral, oesophageal, stomach and bowel cancers). Oxidation can be accelerated by stress, cigarette smoking, alcohol, sunlight, pollution and other factors.
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.”
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.
×