The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition featured a study that found those with high levels of vitamin C in their blood had almost a 50 percent decreased risk of stroke. Countless studies also have found that people who consume highly plant-based diets — loaded with things like fresh veggies, herbs, spices and fruit — have a better chance of living longer and healthier lives with less heart disease. (6)
By now you may have heard about antioxidants – in food articles, from health experts or on nutrition labels. You’ve been told to eat foods that are good for your stomach and those that protect your heart but what about replenishing the cells that make up these critical organs in our body? The buzzword is antioxidants. Let’s begin by understanding some basics.
Such observational studies don't prove that chocolate is responsible for these benefits. However, the consistent and repeated positive results in studies done on cocoa indicate that chocolate does have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. Chocolate has had such a profound effect on so many systems in the human body some authorities are unsure whether to call it a food or a drug.
When we’re under stress, our bodies immediately kick into fight-or-flight mode, releasing large amounts of hormones. Surprisingly, the body has the same chemical response when blood sugar is low. After you eat a sweet snack, stress hormones begin to compensate for the crash by raising your blood sugar. The result? Unexplained anxiousness, irritability, and even shakiness.
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.
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
The "glycemic index" is a measure of how a given food affects blood-glucose levels, with each food being assigned a numbered rating. The lower the rating, the slower the absorption and digestion process, which provides a more gradual, healthier infusion of sugars into the bloodstream. On the other hand, a high rating means that blood-glucose levels are increased quickly, which stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin to drop blood-sugar levels. These rapid fluctuations of blood-sugar levels are not healthy because of the stress they place on the body.
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]
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 , coffee , tea [54,75,76], red wine [77-79] and cocoa . 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 . 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.
In the nuts and seeds category we analyzed 90 different products, with antioxidant contents varying from 0.03 mmol/100 g in poppy seeds to 33.3 mmol/100 g in walnuts, with pellicle and purchased with nut shell intact. Pecans with pellicle, sunflower seeds and chestnuts with pellicle, have mean antioxidant content in the range of 4.7 to 8.5 mmol/100 g (Table (Table3).3). Walnuts, chestnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds have higher values when analyzed with the pellicle intact compared to without pellicle.