A recent study published in Hypertension showed that performance on cognitive tests significantly improved in elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment if they consumed a daily cocoa drink containing high levels of flavanols for eight weeks, compared to those who consumed a low-flavanol cocoa drink. (Flavonols are a member of the polyphenol family—compounds found in natural plant food sources that have antioxidant properties.) Because dark chocolate contains more cocoa solids than other types of chocolate, it naturally contains more flavanols.
What about heavy metals? In recent years there has been press about Lead and Cadmium levels in chocolate. This has nothing to do with manufacturing, but the presence of these metals in soils where cacao is grown. To keep in context, dietary cadmium exposure can come from all kinds of foods – cereals, vegetables, nuts, etc. Given the small volumes of dark chocolate that we eat, cadmium in chocolate should not be viewed as a major concern.
Aside from sunscreen, you may want to chow down on dark chocolate every day to protect your skin against harmful UV rays, according to research from the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. But not just any old dark chocolate—it needs to be specially produced with preserved high flavanol levels (manufacturing processes destroy the integrity of flavanols).
Your dark chocolate of choice should also be made from cocoa butter, not palm and/or coconut oils. Also look out for any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list. Now that huge commercial chocolate makers are responding to the love of dark chocolate and making their own versions, you have to be careful. A label that reads “dark chocolate” doesn’t automatically make it a healthy choice. The healthiest or best dark chocolate is made from cacao or cocoa that’s organic, minimally processed and definitely not dutched.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Nutrition demonstrated flavonoid-rich dark chocolate’s ability to improve cognitive ability, specifically in the elderly. This cross-sectional study of over 2,000 participants ages 70 to 74 years old looked at the relationship between the intake of chocolate, wine and tea (all rich in flavonoids) and cognitive performance. The study concludes that “intake of flavonoid-rich food, including chocolate, wine, and tea, is associated with better performance across several cognitive abilities and that the associations are dose dependent.” The researchers suggest that further studies should take into account other bioactive dietary substances in chocolate, wine and tea to ensure that it’s their flavonoid content that helps the brain so much. (9)
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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.
Interestingly, the antioxidant content in human breast milk is comparable to that in pomegranate juice, strawberries and coffee and on average higher than the antioxidant content observed in the commercially available infant formulas analyzed in our study. Breakfast cereals are also potential important sources of antioxidants; some of these products have antioxidant contents comparable to berries, which are fairly high, compared to other grain products and may be due to antioxidants added to the products in fortification process.
According to the FDA, chocolates are unfortunately one of the most common sources of undeclared milk linked to consumer reactions. In addition, recent testing by the FDA found that you can’t always tell if a dark chocolate has milk just by reading the ingredient list. Many manufacturers make their dark chocolate on the same equipment that they use for milk chocolate production so traces of milk end up in the dark chocolate too. (25) If you’re concerned about milk possibly being in your dark chocolate, contact the manufacturer.
Sugar isn’t the only cause of cavities, though. Any carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes and fruit, can help create the acid, but sugar is definitely a major player in the development of cavities. Many sugary treats, such as soda, cookies and candy, stay on the teeth for longer periods because they aren’t easily removed by your saliva. That extended time on your
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]
“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.'”
I often hear the argument that sugar is ok in moderation and that eliminating any “food group” is dangerous. Certainly, avoiding an actual macronutrient category completely (carbohydrate, protein or fat) would be problematic, but sugar in itself is not a food group. Though sugar in some form is naturally present in many foods, by itself, it contains:
Why should I care about antioxidants? The short answers is because healthy pros say so; the longer one is because the higher antioxidant foods and products we welcome into our lives, the more able our bodies are able to stop or delay the damaging of cells. Oxidants — the opposite of anitoxidants –are free radicals naturally produced by our bodies to help fight off viruses and other health-inhibiting invaders. They also occur in our environment via air pollution, smoke, alcohol etc. which can cause an unhealthy buildup in our systems. Oxidant overload can lead to accelerated aging, weakened immunity, and cellular damage linked to disease among other major health hurdles down the line. On the logical flip-side, inviting more antioxidants into our bodies directly combats these adverse effects.
After you scarf dark chocolate down, “good” microbes in your gut feast on it, fermenting it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for your heart, according to research presented at the 2014 American Chemical Society meeting. Antioxidants and fiber present in cocoa powder aren’t fully digested until they reach the colon where the compounds are absorbed into the body, lessening inflammation within cardiovascular tissue and reducing long-term risk of stroke.
Antioxidants include dozens of food-based substances you may have heard of before, such as carotenoids like beta-carotene, lycopene and vitamin C. These are several examples of antioxidants that inhibit oxidation, or reactions promoted by oxygen, peroxide and/or free radicals. (1) Research suggests that when it comes to longevity and overall health, some of the benefits of consuming antioxidant foods, herbs, teas and supplements include:
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.
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.
Fructose—the sugar that naturally occurs in fruit and is a component, with glucose, of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and table sugar—lights up the brain's reward center, says pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig, MD, of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in San Francisco. But over time, a diet packed with fructose (especially from HFCS) can make it tougher to learn and remember, animal research suggests. To stay in peak mental shape, try sticking with savory snacks.
Most of the spices and herbs analyzed have particularly high antioxidant contents. Although spices and herbs contribute little weight on the dinner plate, they may still be important contributors to our antioxidant intake, especially in dietary cultures where spices and herbs are used regularly. We interpret the elevated concentration of antioxidants observed in several dried herbs compared to fresh samples, as a normal consequence of the drying process leaving most of the antioxidants intact in the dried end product. This tendency is also seen in some fruits and their dried counterparts. Thus, dried herbs and fruit are potentially excellent sources of antioxidants.
Prior says that the data should prove useful for consumers seeking to include more antioxidants in their diet. But he cautions that total antioxidant capacity of the foods does not necessarily reflect their potential health benefit, which depends on how they are absorbed and utilized in the body. Researchers are still trying to better understand this process, he adds.
The samples were classified into 24 different categories covering products from the plant kingdom, products from the animal kingdom and mixed food products. Information about sample processing (raw, cooked, dried etc), if any, was included, along with all sample specifications, i.e. product name, brand name, where the product/sample was procured and country of origin. The product information in the database was collected from the packing of the product, from supplier or purchaser. When this information was not available or the samples were handpicked, only country of origin is presented. Each sample is assigned to only one category. The classification was done according to information from the supplier or purchaser, or according to common traditional use of the food. Some foods may therefore be categorized otherwise in other food cultures. For products in the categories "Herbal/traditional plant medicine" and "Vitamin and dietary Supplements" some products may rightfully be classified as both an herbal medicine and a supplement, but are still assigned to only one category. All berries, fruits, and vegetables were fresh samples unless otherwise noted in the database. The Antioxidant Food Table contains 3139 samples. About 1300 of these samples have been published before [16,17,28] but for comparison and completeness we have included them in the present publication. All individual samples previously published are identified by a comment in the Antioxidant Food Table. The categories and products in the database are presented in alphabetic order. Information about brand names and product trademarks does not imply endorsement by the authors, and are reported as descriptive information for research applications only. The Antioxidant Food Table will in the future be available online as a searchable database. In addition to the products mentioned in this paper, other foods will in the future be analyzed and incorporated into the online version, which will be posted on the University of Oslo's web site.
Sweets can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the near term, research shows. But continue OD'ing on sugary refined carbs and your risk of insulin resistance, which stresses the body from the inside, goes up. To find your calm, sweat instead: "Exercise is the best treatment for stress. It makes you feel good and reduces cortisol," says Dr. Lustig.
All types of eggplant are rich in bitter chlorogenic acid, which protects against the buildup of heart-threatening plaque in artery walls (and fights cancer, too!), say USDA scientists in Beltsville, Maryland. In lab studies, eggplant lowered cholesterol and helped artery walls relax, which can cut your risk of high blood pressure. Here are some more foods that can help lower your blood pressure.
Dark chocolate may have something in common with carrots: Researchers from the University of Reading in England tested the eyesight of 30 healthy adults, 18 to 25 years old, after they ate white and dark chocolates. The subjects performed better on vision tests after eating the dark chocolate. It could be that the flavanols in dark chocolate, which improve blood flow to the brain, improve blood flow to the retina as well — and white chocolate doesn’t have nearly the same amount of flavanols as dark chocolate.
Several assays have been used to assess the total antioxidant content of foods, e.g. the 6-hydroxy-2,5,7,8-tetramethylchroman-2-carboxylic acid (Trolox) equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC) assay , the ferric-reducing ability of plasma (FRAP)  and the oxygen radical absorbance capacity assay (ORAC) assay . Based on careful considerations (see Blomhoff 2005 and Halvorsen et al 2002 for discussion [15,16]) we chose to use a modified version of the FRAP assay by Benzie and Strain  for total antioxidant analysis . Most importantly, the modified FRAP assay is a simple, fast and inexpensive assay with little selectivity. Assay conditions, such as extraction solvents, were optimized regarding detection of both lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidants . The FRAP assay directly measures antioxidants with a reduction potential below the reduction potential of the Fe3+/Fe2+ couple [16,17]. Thus, the FRAP assay does not measure glutathione. Most other assays have higher reduction potentials and measures glutathione and other thiols . This may be an advantage when using the FRAP assay, because glutathione is found in high concentrations in foods but it is degraded in the intestine and poorly absorbed by humans . A disadvantage of the FRAP assay is its inability to detect other small molecular weight thiols and sulfur containing molecules of e.g. garlic. Most assays for assessing total antioxidant capacity generally result in similar ranking of foods [20-23]. We have now performed a systematic measurement of the total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods. This novel Antioxidant Food Table enables us to calculate total antioxidant content of complex diets, identify and rank potentially good sources of antioxidants, and provide the research community with comparable data on the relative antioxidant capacity of a wide range of foods.
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.