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Artichokes and beans may not be at the top of your list of favorite foods, but when it comes to antioxidants, these veggies earn a coveted place. They are among a growing variety of foods found to contain surprisingly high levels of these disease-fighting compounds, according to a new USDA study, which researchers say is the largest, most comprehensive analysis to date of the antioxidant content of commonly consumed foods.
The results demonstrate that there are several thousand-fold differences in antioxidant content of foods. Spices, herbs and supplements include the most antioxidant rich products in our study, some exceptionally high. Berries, fruits, nuts, chocolate, vegetables and products thereof constitute common foods and beverages with high antioxidant values.
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]
One of the effects of sugar on the body is that it could make your depression worse, according to research. “I like to tell my patients there’s a truth to the saying, ‘You are what you eat,’” says psychologist Deborah Serani, PsyD, award-winning author of Depression in Later Life. “High levels of sugar in the form of simple carbohydrates leads to spikes and crashes in glucose levels, which can worsen mood, increase irritability, agitation, irregular sleeping, and increase inflammation.” Instead, munch on lean protein, complex carbs, and foods with omega-3s, folate, and B vitamins.
Another study published in 2015 titled followed the health of over 20,000 people for 11 years. The study concluded that “cumulative evidence suggests that higher chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events” and that “there does not appear to be any evidence to say that chocolate should be avoided in those who are concerned about cardiovascular risk.” Among subjects who consumed the most chocolate, 12 percent developed or died of cardiovascular disease during the study compared to 17.4 percent of those who didn’t eat chocolate. (7) This doesn’t give anyone license to eat a chocolate bar each day, but it’s impressive that this large and lengthy study does appear to show a positive connection between chocolate consumption and heart health.
Enter milk, sugar, and butter—good for your taste buds, not always good for your health. Besides adding calories, these can dilute the benefits of cacao. So snack smart: Stick to healthy chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao (or cocoa, which is cacao in its roasted, ground form). As long as the content is that high, says Mary Engler, Ph.D., a professor of physiological nursing at the University of California at San Francisco, you can reap the benefits from eating only small amounts. Because of its high fat and sugar content, limit yourself to 7 ounces, or about four dark chocolate bars, a week.
Interestingly enough, even human breast milk was analyzed and results were 2.0 (higher than the manufactured formulas). The highest numbers came from the herbs and traditional medicine category with numbers off the charts. For example dried amla (Indian gooseberry) with 261.5 mmol/100 g. Upon closer inspection of the types of foods, there was no indication of comparison with conventional and organically grown foods. This would be an important distinction for further study considering the results of a study on organic versus conventional strawberries discovered that organic strawberries had a higher antioxidant content.
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.
The Antioxidant Food Table is a valuable research contribution, expanding the research evidence base for plant-based nutritional research and may be utilized in epidemiological studies where reported food intakes can be assigned antioxidant values. It can also be used to test antioxidant effects and synergy in experimental animal and cell studies or in human clinical trials. The ultimate goal of this research is to combine these strategies in order to understand the role of dietary phytochemical antioxidants in the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other chronic diseases related to oxidative stress.
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A recent study by Swedish researchers found that women who ate high amounts of chocolate — about two candy bars per week — had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke. In a similar study, British researchers also found that people who ate more chocolate were 30 percent less likely to have a stroke. However, researchers added that more study is needed to determine the exact amount and types of flavonoid-rich chocolates that would be most help lessen stroke risk.
To date, studies have confirmed that chronic inflammation contribute to factors that increase your risk of developing cancer, including DNA mutations and cancer cell growth. Research has confirmed that the antioxidants in dark chocolate have a strong ability to fight the DNA damage that could lead to cancer development, as well as reduce certain inflammation enzymes that could encourage its growth (12).
“Given chocolate’s rich supply of flavonoids, researchers have also investigated whether it may play a role in cancer prevention. The studies in cancer prevention are still emerging. A recent review of studies on the cancer protective properties of cocoa concluded that the evidence is limited but suggestive. More rigorous studies should be conducted on chocolates’ cancer protective role, concluded the author, because it provides ‘strong antioxidant effects in combination with a pleasurable eating experience.'”
Depression – Too much sugar may be a contributing factor in depression. In a study published in the Journal of Depression and Anxiety, available data from six countries were reviewed to determine the connection between sugar consumption and depression. The results of the study indicated that higher rates of sugar consumption correlated with higher rates of depression. Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition included about 70,000 women. The study found that women with a diet high in added sugar had an increased risk of depression. The study also indicated that high intake of natural sugars including those in fruit was not associated with higher rates of depression.
Flavonoids have been shown to offer significant protection for neurons in your brain and nervous system. Specifically, they reduce neuroinflammation, which has been found to be a major cause of the development of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, their ability to increase cerebral blood flow encourages the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, which processes memory (13).
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.
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.
It’s helpful to understand a little about how sugar is used by the brain. The carbohydrates you eat, including sugars, are broken down into glucose. Your brain needs glucose to function properly. Unfortunately, many people eat much more sugar than they need. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the average American eats the equivalent of about 42 teaspoons of sugar a day. That added sugar comes from various sources, such as table sugar, baked goods, and sugary drinks.