Antioxidant sources, like antioxidant foods, herbs, spices and teas, reduce the effects of free radicals, also called oxidative damage/stress, which plays a major role in disease formation. The leading health problems facing us today — including conditions like heart disease, cancer and dementia — have been linked to increased levels of oxidative damage and inflammation. In simplest terms, oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, leading to other chemical chain reactions that damage cells.
No introductions are needed for this highly treasured food that dates back to 2000 BC. At that time, the Maya from Central America, the first connoisseurs of chocolate, drank it as a bitter fermented beverage mixed with spices or wine. Today, the long rows of chocolate squares sitting neatly on your store shelves are the end result of many steps that begin as a cacao pod, larger than the size of your hand. Seeds (or beans) are extracted from the pod and fermented, dried, and roasted into what we recognize as cocoa beans. The shells of the bean are then separated from the meat, or cocoa nibs. The nibs are ground into a liquid called chocolate liquor, and separated from the fatty portion, or cocoa butter. The liquor is further refined to produce the cocoa solids and chocolate that we eat. After removing the nibs, the cocoa bean is ground into cocoa powder that is used in baking or beverages.
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.
Research shows that high antioxidant foods counteract the effects of oxidative stress. In fact, there are hundreds of different substances that act as antioxidants. The most recognizable among them are beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and manganese, glutathione, melatonin, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, flavonoids, and phytoestrogens.
While it’s good for your brain and digestive health, dark chocolate can benefit your heart even more. Research shows that the flavonoids naturally found in chocolate can help lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol. Flavonoids can also significantly decrease systolic blood pressure in healthy older adults. Dark chocolate has also been found to improve insulin resistance and endothelial dysfunction, both of which have a positive effect on the heart. In fact, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, in individuals who suffered a previous heart attack, eating chocolate twice a week compared with never eating chocolate has been shown to lower the risk of death from heart disease by 66 percent.

An ongoing 40-year study on the effects of chocolate on cognitive function was recently finished. The study used data from the beginning of the study and compared it through cross-sectional study. This might not mean that chocolate makes people smarter—perhaps smart people happen to eat chocolate. Regardless, the study also concluded that all the types of intelligence measured previously were increased by chocolate consumption—along with spoken word recall. 
Oxidative stress is believed to play a central role in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, but a nutrient-dense diet seems to lower one’s risk. The Journal of the American Medical Association of Neurology reports that higher intake of foods rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, may modestly reduce long-term risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. (10)
In addition to confirming the well-publicized high antioxidant ranking of such foods as cranberries and blueberries, the researchers found that Russet potatoes, pecans and even cinnamon are all excellent, although lesser-known, sources of antioxidants, which are thought to fight cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's. The study appears in the June 9 print edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Let’s not forget about our little ones! When New York City public schools reduced the amount of sugar in their lunches and breakfasts, their academic ranking increased 15.7% (previously, the greatest improvement ever seen had been 1.7%).11 The study also eliminated artificial colors, synthetic flavoring, and two preservatives, showing the importance of natural ingredients for children. 

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.
There is something called a "phagocytic index" which tells you how rapidly a particular macrophage or lymphocyte can gobble up a virus, bacteria, or cancer cell. It was in the 1970's that Linus Pauling realized that white blood cells need a high dose of vitamin C and that is when he came up with his theory that you need high doses of vitamin C to combat the common cold.
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.

Your body needs some sugar for energy, but the rest is stored as fat. Not shockingly, sugar’s relationship to weight gain affects your health. “In a number of studies, added sugars have been associated with weight gain and obesity, which in turn leads to increased risk of type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Saltzman says. Why this happens is complicated, but may have to do with low-grade inflammation caused by obesity as well as insulin resistance, he says. In addition, “consumption of [added sugar] has also been linked to increased waist circumference [a.k.a. belly fat], an independent risk factor for heart disease,” Dr. Malik says. Plus, make sure you know the 25 ways sugar can make you sick.


This is the most antioxidant rich category in the present study and is also the category with largest variation between products. Half of the products have antioxidant values above the 90th percentile of the complete Antioxidant Food Table and the mean and median values are 91.7 and 14.2 mmol/100 g, respectively. The 59 products included originate from India, Japan, Mexico and Peru. Sangre de Grado (Dragon's Blood) from Peru has the highest antioxidant content of all the products in the database (2897.1 mmol/100 g). Other antioxidant rich products are Triphala, Amalaki and Arjuna from India and Goshuyu-tou, a traditional kampo medicine from Japan, with antioxidant values in the range of 132.6 to 706.3 mmol/100 g. Only four products in this category have values less than 2.0 mmol/100 g.


Forget carrots—dark chocolate can improve your eyesight too, according to research published in the journal Physiology & Behavior. The researchers found that participants who consumed dark chocolate with 720 mg of cocoa flavanols experienced enhanced visual performance—like detecting motion and reading low contrast letters—likely due to the increased blood flow to the retina and brain. 
Dark chocolate -- but not milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk -- is a potent antioxidant, report Mauro Serafini, PhD, of Italy's National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, and colleagues. Their report appears in the Aug. 28 issue of Nature. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.
Chocolate’s lengthy history is believed to go all the way back to 1900 B.C. This is when the the Aztec civilization believed that cacao seeds were a gift of Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom. They used the seeds to prepare a bitter, frothy beverage that also included spices, wine or corn puree. (22) It was very different from today’s super sweet milk chocolate treats but closer to a very minimally processed dark chocolate made from raw cacao.
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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.

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.
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.

Research shows that high antioxidant foods counteract the effects of oxidative stress. In fact, there are hundreds of different substances that act as antioxidants. The most recognizable among them are beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and manganese, glutathione, melatonin, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, flavonoids, and phytoestrogens.
Another side effect of inflammation: It may make your skin age faster. Sugar attaches to proteins in your bloodstream and creates harmful molecules called “AGEs,” or advanced glycation end products. These molecules do exactly what they sound like they do: age your skin. They have been shown to damage collagen and elastin in your skin -- protein fibers that keep your skin firm and youthful. The result? Wrinkles and saggy skin.
Prevent diabetes – Dark chocolate reduces insulin resistance. In a small Italian study, participants who ate a candy bar’s worth of dark chocolate once a day for 15 days saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by nearly half. The flavonoids, which are the antioxidants in dark chocolate, create a gas called nitric oxide that helps control insulin sensitivity.
Make your portion more powerful: A study in the Journal of Nutrition determined that the anti­oxidant ellagic acid (found in raspberries, pomegranates, walnuts, and cranberries) enhanced the ability of quercetin (an antioxidant found in apples, grapes, onions, and buckwheat) to kill off cancerous cells. Here are some other foods that can help fight cancer.
Weight gain: Some studies suggest that chocolate consumption is linked to lower body mass index (BMI) and central body fat. However, chocolate can have a high calorie count due to its sugar and fat content. Anyone who is trying to slim down or maintain their weight should limit their chocolate consumption and check the label of their favorite product.
Make your portion more powerful: A study in the Journal of Nutrition determined that the anti­oxidant ellagic acid (found in raspberries, pomegranates, walnuts, and cranberries) enhanced the ability of quercetin (an antioxidant found in apples, grapes, onions, and buckwheat) to kill off cancerous cells. Here are some other foods that can help fight cancer.
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.
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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.

To melt: Dark chocolate should be heated gradually to prevent scorching. This may be done on a stove top on low heat or in a microwave oven on 50% power. Break chocolate into smaller pieces and place in pan or microwave to heat. Stir continually (or after each minute) to ensure even heating. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of melted dark chocolate over oatmeal, yogurt, or fresh fruit for an easy healthful snack.
Studies show that the darker the chocolate, the better. Eat only less-processed chocolate that contains at least 65 percent cacao, recommends Joy DuBost, PhD, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman. Not only does dark chocolate have a higher concentration of antioxidants than milk chocolate, but milk chocolate is also higher in added sugar and unhealthy fats. Still, the daily dose of antioxidants in dark chocolate doesn’t give you license to indulge in a dessert free-for-all — dark chocolate is still loaded with fat and calories — so eat a max of 1 to 2 ounces a day. If you do, research says you’ll reap these 9 benefits.
For another berry rich in antioxidant power, strawberries are an excellent choice. These berries are another one of the most highly concentrated antioxidant fruits. The antioxidants found in strawberries have been shown to fight carcinogens and LDL, cholesterol that is known to cause heart disease. Strawberries contain, anthocyanins, the antioxidants that protect against cardiovascular diseases. They are also a great source of vitamin C, which protects your body’s cells from free radical damage.
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)
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