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Editor's Note: USDA scientists analyzed antioxidant levels in more than 100 different foods, including fruits and vegetables. Each food was measured for antioxidant concentration as well as antioxidant capacity per serving size. Cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries ranked highest among the fruits studied. Beans, artichokes, and Russet potatoes were tops among the vegetables. Pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts ranked highest in the nut category.
According research published in Free Radical Biology & Medicine, the official journal of the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine along with the Society of Free Radical Research-Europe, proteins are often targeted by reactive oxygen species, also known as oxidants. (1a) We know how important proteins are to health, so protecting them is just one of the many reasons antioxidants and antioxidant foods are important.
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.

What Does It All Mean?The antioxidant powerhouses aren’t the ones most people think of. It also means that making little tweaks to the foods we already eat can impact our health in a major way. A daily dose of all-the-kale-you-can-eat will help undo some damaging influence of free radicals, but a casual dash of cinnamon across your fave breakfast bowl will do so much more.
The research included information that animal studies have found the hippocampus, which is an area in the brain associated with memory, may be affected by refined sugar. Two studies were conducted in the published report. In the first study, participants that self-reported eating a high-sugar diet had poorer performance on hippocampal related memory tasks. In the second study, the results were replicated. The second study also revealed that the effect of high sugar consumption on memory appears to be directly related to the hippocampal region and no other areas which may also affect memory, such as the prefrontal cortex.
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.
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.
But there are lesser-known reasons you should indulge in the (bitter)sweet stuff. Dark chocolate has been scientifically proven to keep your brain sharp, your ticker ticking and your skin shielded from the sun’s harmful rays (yes, really). Dark chocolate can be the key to beating that midday slump, accoriding to a new study from Northern Arizona University found.
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.
Various types of chocolate were analyzed, from milk chocolate to dark chocolate and baking cocoa. The variation of antioxidant content in chocolate ranged from 0.23 in white chocolate to 14.98 mmol/100 g in one individual dark chocolate sample. Mean antioxidant contents increased with increasing content of cocoa in the chocolate product (Pearson correlation r = 0.927, p < 0.001). Chocolate products with cocoa contents of 24-30%, 40-65% and 70-99% had mean antioxidant contents of 1.8, 7.2 and 10.9 mmol/100 g, respectively.
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.
You know saturated fats are bad for your heart, but sugar can also have a damaging effect on your cardiac health. A high intake of added sugars seems to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. One study that took place over 15 years indicated that people who consume 25 percent or more of calories from sugar were more than twice as likely as those who consumed less than 10 percent of calories from sugar to die from heart disease. Simply eating a high-sugar diet significantly increases your risk of heart problems.
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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.
Sugary foods are addictive, giving us a quick 'fix' that tempts us back time and time again. Foods high in sugar have been shown to activate the reward pathway in the brain by releasing dopamine, similar to that of addictive drugs. The nutrient chromium could help to restore normal insulin function and supplementation has been shown to contribute to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels and to reduce sugar and carbohydrate cravings. I recommend Lepicol Lighter (£17.99), a new supplement which contains 7 strains of live bacteria, chromium, glucomannan and psyllium husk fibres which increase satiety and support healthy bowel movements.

"You need balance and you need to do things in moderation, like most things in life, and although there are many things I won't give up, I won’t consume as much. You can’t expect your body to function optimally when you keep putting in the wrong fuel. I guess everyone needs to figure out what works for them, create a plan and stick to it – and on the odd occasion, spoil yourself and indulge a little."
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.

This is the most antioxidant rich category in the present study and is also the category with largest variation between products. Half of the products have antioxidant values above the 90th percentile of the complete Antioxidant Food Table and the mean and median values are 91.7 and 14.2 mmol/100 g, respectively. The 59 products included originate from India, Japan, Mexico and Peru. Sangre de Grado (Dragon's Blood) from Peru has the highest antioxidant content of all the products in the database (2897.1 mmol/100 g). Other antioxidant rich products are Triphala, Amalaki and Arjuna from India and Goshuyu-tou, a traditional kampo medicine from Japan, with antioxidant values in the range of 132.6 to 706.3 mmol/100 g. Only four products in this category have values less than 2.0 mmol/100 g.

Chocolate milk is also something that will make you stronger and healthier in the long run. If you take it at least three times a week after your workout, you will see changes in your body. You will also become stronger. Weights that couldn’t be lifted earlier will now become a little easier than last time. If you gave up too quick while running or swimming, this drink will keep you going.
There’s no doubt that dark chocolate is trending in today’s marketplace, and sales don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Over the last few years, the chocolate industry has seen a move to premium and certified organic dark chocolate, specifically products that are single-origin; have high cacao content’ use natural sweeteners, such as agave, stevia, yacon or coconut sugar; as well as increased sustainable sourcing and origin labeling. As science shows more and more benefits of dark chocolate, its popularity will only continue to grow.
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.
Baur JA, Pearson KJ, Price NL, Jamieson HA, Lerin C, Kalra A, Prabhu VV, Allard JS, Lopez-Lluch G, Lewis K, Pistell PJ, Poosala S, Becker KG, Boss O, Gwinn D, Wang M, Ramaswamy S, Fishbein KW, Spencer RG, Lakatta EG, Le CD, Shaw RJ, Navas P, Puigserver P, Ingram DK, de CR, Sinclair DA. Resveratrol improves health and survival of mice on a high-calorie diet. Nature. 2006;444:337–342. doi: 10.1038/nature05354. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef]
This work was funded by the Throne Holst foundation, The Research Council of Norway, and the Norwegian Cancer Society. The authors thank Amrit K. Sakhi, Nasser Bastani, Ingvild Paur and Trude R. Balstad for help procuring samples, the Tsumura Pharmaceutical Company for providing traditional herb medicines and Arcus AS and Norsk Øko-Urt BA for providing samples of beverages and herbs, respectively.
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.
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.
When it comes to wellness buzzwords, “antioxidant” is top of the list. It has us stashing goji in our desks for daily snacking, and tossing back blueberries like no one’s business. While filling up on high antioxidant foods like these is definitely important, it’s not necessarily the most efficient solution: According to science (spelled out in this article by former TCM Guest Editor, Dr. Axe), a sprinkle of spice here and there can provide a dose that’s 30 times more potent than the foods known for their high level of antioxidants!
Most common fruits, vegetables and herbs in the diet that contain antioxidants include forms like vitamin E, lutein, vitamin C, beta-carotene, flavonoids and lycopene. While there is currently no official recommended daily allowance for antioxidants or antioxidant foods, generally speaking the more you consume each day from real foods in your diet the better.
Among the fruits, vegetables and nuts analyzed, each food was measured for antioxidant concentration as well as antioxidant capacity per serving size. Cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries ranked highest among the fruits studied. Beans, artichokes and Russet potatoes were tops among the vegetables. Pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts ranked highest in the nut category.
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.
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)
Reduces stress –If you are one of those chocolate lovers, you know that feeling of happiness and guilt when you put in your mouth that piece of flavorful candy. Now imagine that same feeling but without the guilt! You can achieve that with dark chocolate because now you know that it is better for your health and has much more benefits than regular or milk chocolate. There has been studies were people that ate dark chocolate showed a decreased amount of stress hormone levels.
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].
The bottom line is, try to wean yourself from sugar. And, learn to enjoy the truly natural sweetness of fruits and berries. And, if you must use sweeteners to make your food more interesting, there are many alternatives from which to choose. However, if your goal is to be as healthy as you can, your best choice is stevia. Moderation is key. Make the best choices you can most of the time, and your life can be pretty sweet.
While we all like to indulge once in a while, foods that quickly affect blood sugar contribute to a greater risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.1 Emerging research also suggests connections between these high-glycemic diets and various forms of cancer.2,3,4 These effects are often a result of added sugars working in your body, so be sure to read those nutrition labels.
Chocolate tastes sinfully sweet, but you may no longer need to feel guilty about indulging in an ounce or two a few times a week. A growing number of studies show that chocolate, especially antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, has health benefits that put it squarely on the latest list of superfoods. A key reason chocolate has so many health benefits is that it is rich in flavonoids, which are naturally occurring substances found in plants that can provide a serious boost in antioxidant action for you.
While they are young now and it is easy to make sure they are eating healthy foods, especially at home, they will one day grow up and be away from home and exposed to all types of foods. I think it is important to let them start to make food choices on their own (and they usually make healthy ones) while they are still young and I can still help guide their choices rather than completely restrict them.
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.
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.

Evidence that dark chocolate may play a role in cancer prevention is limited but growing. Some preliminary studies on three continents — Europe, Asia, and North America — have shown that people who eat many flavonoids or a lot of antioxidant-rich chocolate develop fewer cancers than those who don’t consume them. Of the many flavonoids in chocolate, two in particular, epicatechin and quercetin, are believed to be responsible for the cancer-fighting properties.
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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:

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.
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 [23]. 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.
The sugar you consume enters the blood stream as part of the body’s natural process. The more refined sugar you consume, the higher your blood sugar levels rise. All of that sugar heads to the heart, where studies show it can cause damage to the vital muscle. The sugar may stress the heart and affect functioning. It can cause inflammation of the artery linings. Over

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. 

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.
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