When you eat excess sugar, the extra insulin in your bloodstream can affect your arteries, part of your body’s circulatory system. It causes their walls to grow faster than normal and get tense, which adds stress to your heart and damages it over time. This can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Research also suggests that eating less sugar can help lower blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. Plus, people who eat a lot of added sugar (where at least 25% of their calories comes from added sugar) are twice as likely to die of heart disease as those whose diets include less than 10% of total calories from added sugar.
In moderation (one ounce or less per day), dark chocolate has been shown to improve so many common and chronic health problems. With all of its natural and health-promoting components (like flavonoids, polyphenols and flavanols), dark chocolate is an antioxidant powerhouse and a superfood that’s truly a joy to eat. It’s been shown to boost heart and brain health, along with fight disease — just some of the many benefits of dark chocolate.
The Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands of Panama, who drink roughly three cups of a cacao beverage daily and have a very low prevalence of hypertension, myocardial infarction and stroke compared to those on the mainland, are a good example of chocolate’s benefits at work. In addition, studies have found that their blood pressure doesn’t rise with age (4).
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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
Tension – Although some people reach for a sugary treat to increase energy, sugar may actually zap energy and increase tension. In a small study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18 people rated their tiredness, energy, and tension after eating a candy bar or walking briskly for ten minutes. The group that walked reported higher levels of energy and lower levels of tension. The group that ate a sugary snack reported higher levels of tension than the walkers. The snack group also had a pattern of increased energy after one hour of eating, but two hours later, reported decreased energy and increased tiredness.
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)
Foods high in refined sugar are claimed to exacerbate hyperactivity and increase aggressive behavior. Controlled studies have failed to confirm any effect on hyperactivity and effects on inattention have been equivocal. Possible effect on aggressive behavior has received little study. This study assessed cognitive attention and aggressive behavior immediately following an acute ingestion of sugar compared with saccharin and aspartame-sweetened placebos in 17 subjects with attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity compared with 9 age-matched control subjects. The sugar and placebo challenges were given with a breakfast high in carbohydrate. Although the children with attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity were significantly more aggressive than the control subjects, there were no significant effects of sugar or either placebo on the aggressive behavior of either group. However, inattention, as measured by a continuous performance task, increased only in the attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity group following sugar, but not saccharin or aspartame. This result is of questionable clinical significance inasmuch as aggressive behavior was unchanged. The finding may be due to the combination of the sugar challenge with a high-carbohydrate breakfast. These findings should be replicated and any possible clinical significance should be documented before any dietary recommendations can be made.
Sources of antioxidants in your diet offer much-needed help in counteracting the damage done by things like blue light or sun exposure, a poor diet, smoking or using other drugs, taking medications, toxicity or chemical exposure, even high amounts of stress and other natural factors that increase the risk of age-related problems. In the process of fighting free radical damage, antioxidants protect healthy cells while halting the growth of malignant or cancerous cells.
Cherries have been touted as the new wonder fruit, and based on their antioxidant content we can see why! Cherries are rich in the flavonoids, isoqueritrin and queritrin, which act as antioxidants and work to eliminate byproducts of oxidative stress, therefore slowing down the aging process. Cherries are also loaded with Queritrin, a flavonoid believed to be one of the most potent anticancer agents.
Vitamin A and C have been connected to a decrease in the appearance of wrinkles and skin dryness. Vitamin C, specifically, is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce the effect of oxidative damage caused by pollution, stress or poor diet. Vitamin A deficiency has also been linked to skin dryness, scaling and follicular thickening of the skin. Similarly to how free radicals damage surface skin cells, keratinization of the skin, when the epithelial cells lose their moisture and become hard and dry, can occur in the mucous membranes of the respiratory, gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract.
The research is piling up that soda is bad for your brain, as are other added sugars. An animal study from Oregon State University found that a high-sugar diet led to cognitive impairments, including memory problems. And a UK study recently found the “tipping point” at which blood sugar negatively affects the progression of Alzheimer’s. “Excess sugar is well known to be bad for us when it comes to diabetes and obesity, but this potential link with Alzheimer’s disease is yet another reason that we should be controlling our sugar intake in our diets,” study author Dr. Omar Kassaar of the University of Bath said in a press release.