As preventive cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City says, “When looking for a sweet snack, a square of dark chocolate might, in fact, be your healthiest choice!” (2) Let’s look at exactly why this expert medical opinion really does ring true and why a little dark chocolate is more than just a tasty treat — with health benefits of dark chocolate that include protection against disease and improved brain and heart health.
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.
Any sugar added in our food is dangerous. We can avoid these dangers by satisfying our sweet tooth with fresh fruit in place of refined sugars. Other concentrated sweeteners, such as agave, honey, and maple syrup are equally dangerous. By eating fresh fruit we get the satisfying sweetness and the added bonus of the fruit’s fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that curtail the surge of sugar in the bloodstream and block its negative effects.
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.
Protects against sun –The flavonols can protect against sun-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration. If you are out in the sun, dark chocolate can reduce your possibilities of getting sun burned or just help not to burn your skin as much. And if you were to get sun burned, it can help you heal quicker.
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.
It’s important to purchase the best dark chocolate you can find. The majority of chocolate on the market is garbage, with very little nutritional value, so always look for the quality stuff with more that 70% cocoa. A lot of places now offer organic dark chocolate, which is even better for you since it reduces that possibilities of eating bad chemicals.
The protective effect of antioxidants continues to be studied around the world. For instance, men who eat plenty of the antioxidant lycopene (found in tomatoes) may be less likely than other men to develop prostate cancer. Lutein, found in spinach and corn, has been linked to a lower incidence of eye lens degeneration and associated blindness in the elderly. Flavonoids, such as the tea catechins found in green tea, are believed to contribute to the low rates of heart disease in Japan.
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.
Sugar alcohols like xylitol, glycerol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and erythritol are neither sugars nor alcohols but are becoming increasingly popular as sweeteners. They are incompletely absorbed from your small intestine, for the most part, so they provide fewer calories than sugar but often cause problems with bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence.
Have a big meeting, test or dinner with the in-laws? Eating dark chocolate can give your brain a short-term boost—increasing your alertness—for two to three hours, a University of Nottingham study found. Flavanols, one of dark chocolate’s key components, dilates blood vessels, allowing more oxygen and blood to reach key areas of the brain, which can help you soldier against fatigue and the effects of aging. The study participants consumed a flavanol-rich cocoa drink, but you can eat dark chocolate by itself—or any foods high in flavanols like red wine, green tea and blueberries.
Aviram M, Rosenblat M, Gaitini D, Nitecki S, Hoffman A, Dornfeld L, Volkova N, Presser D, Attias J, Liker H, Hayek T. Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation. Clin Nutr. 2004;23:423–433. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2003.10.002. [PubMed] [CrossRef]
As a colleague and I alluded to in the New York Times, sugar, not salt, is the true addictive white crystal. Indeed, sugar meets the definition of an addictive substance in animals, hitting all the checkboxes for being a substance of abuse including reward, tolerance, bingeing, and withdrawal. And as I show in my book, The Salt Fix, salt may actually be an antidote to sugar addiction.
Excessive sugar consumption can cause long-term damage to skin proteins, collagen and elastin, leading to premature wrinkles and ageing. Too much sugar could also contribute to an imbalance of the female menstrual hormones which could result in acne along the jaw line. Sugar is also the favourite food of less desirable gut bacteria and yeast, and consuming too much could lead to an imbalanced gut flora and inflammation in the body, typically seen in skin conditions such as eczema.
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.
Plants are humanity's greatest ally in the fight against climate change. Plants soak up carbon dioxide and turn it into leaves and branches. The more trees humans plant, the less heat-trapping carbon pollution in the air. Unfortunately, plants require a lot of water and land, so much that humans might need a new to find a new ally to help draw down all that carbon.