There is increasing evidence that antioxidants are more effective when obtained from whole foods, rather than isolated from a food and presented in tablet form – and some supplements can actually increase cancer risk. For instance, vitamin A (beta-carotene) has been associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, but an increase in others, such as lung cancer in smokers, if vitamin A is purified from foodstuffs.
These broccoli cousins have plenty of bitter sulforaphane as well as compounds called isothiocyanates, which detoxify cancer-causing substances in the body before they can do their dirty work. In one Dutch study, guys who ate Brussels sprouts daily for three weeks had 28 percent less genetic damage (gene damage is a root cause of cancer) than those who didn’t eat sprouts. You won’t believe the way Brussels sprouts are grown.
We know that glucose and vitamin C have similar chemical structures, so what happens when the sugar levels go up? They compete for one another upon entering the cells. And the thing that mediates the entry of glucose into the cells is the same thing that mediates the entry of vitamin C into the cells. If there is more glucose around, there is going to be less vitamin C allowed into the cell. It doesn't take much: a blood sugar value of 120 reduces the phagocytic index by 75%. So when you eat sugar, think of your immune system slowing down to a crawl.
In the brain, excess sugar impairs both our cognitive skills and our self-control (having a little sugar stimulates a craving for more). Sugar has drug-like effects in the reward center of the brain. Scientists have proposed that sweet foods—along with salty and fatty foods—can produce addiction-like effects in the human brain, driving loss of self-control, overeating, and subsequent weight gain.
Spinach is one of the richest sources of antioxidants, with one cup containing over 3,600 IU of beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant known for its anti-cancer, anti-aging properties, and heart protecting properties. Spinach also offers an abundance of the antioxidant, lutein, which is beneficial in protecting your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts.
It was in 1847 that a British chocolate company (J.S. Fry & Sons) created the first solid edible chocolate bar from three ingredients: cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar. Huge names like Cadbury, Mars and Hershey came into the picture in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The love of chocolate has only continued to grow over the years. Now many mainstream chocolate producers make “dark chocolate” that really isn’t very healthy. On the other hand, there are now more and more companies making high-quality, high-cacao/cocoa content chocolate that’s not only dark, but also organic and fairly traded.
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  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 . Other extreme antioxidant rich herbal medicines are Triphala, an Indian Ayurvedic herbal formulation, shown to have anti-inflammatory activity , antibacterial and wound healing properties [37,38] and cancer chemopreventive potential . 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 .
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.
Dark chocolate makes my list of 15 brain foods to boost focus and memory for good reason. Previous research showed that “acute as well as chronic ingestion of flavanol-rich cocoa is associated with increased blood flow to cerebral gray matter and it has been suggested that cocoa flavanols might be beneficial in conditions with reduced cerebral blood flow, including dementia and stroke.”
Cocoa is rich in plant chemicals called flavanols that may help to protect the heart. Dark chocolate contains up to 2-3 times more flavanol-rich cocoa solids than milk chocolate. Flavanols have been shown to support the production of nitric oxide (NO) in the endolethium (the inner cell lining of blood vessels) that helps to relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow, thereby lowering blood pressure. [1,2] Flavanols in chocolate can increase insulin sensitivity in short term studies; in the long run this could reduce risk of diabetes. [3,4]
The average American consumes an astounding 2-3 pounds of sugar each week, which is not surprising considering that highly refined sugars in the forms of sucrose (table sugar), dextrose (corn sugar), and high-fructose corn syrup are being processed into so many foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, mayonnaise, peanut butter, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, and a plethora of microwave meals.
“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.'”
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.
Now that you understand the negative effects of sugar on your body and mind, it’s time to be more careful when choosing foods. The first step is getting educated about how to find added sugars. When it comes to convenience and packaged foods, let the ingredients label be your guide—you’d be surprised how many low carb or “diet” foods contain added sugar.
The new study is more complete and accurate (thanks to updated technology) than previous USDA antioxidant data and includes more foods than the previous study, the researchers say. They analyzed antioxidant levels in over 100 different foods, including fruits and vegetables. In addition, the new study includes data on spices and nuts for the first time.
But these benefits could have an even bigger impact: Flavonoids foundin dark chocolate may someday be useful in potentially treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. One study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found an association between eating chocolate and reduced risk of cognitive decline, perhaps due to protective effects of the cocoa flavanols.