Ahh, the soothing bliss of chocolate! Do you crave that milky brown sweetness, that molten cocoa, sugar and milk mixture melting in your mouth? Do you satiate that craving, only to feel utterly betrayed and guilty for having participated in consuming something so sinfully delicious? Dark chocolate is here for you! This rich treat is an excellent substitute for milk chocolate – the high-in-sugar chocolate most people consume! Dark chocolate, however, is full with a lot of more nutrients and can prove positive for your health. It is one of the best sources that contains antioxidants in the world, coming from the seed of the cocoa tree, often with higher cocoa content than other chocolates. In fact, the antioxidants in cocoa can help you fight against heart disease, some cancers and even diabetes.

An excerpt of the 425 spices and herbs analyzed in our study are presented in Table ​Table5.5. The study includes spices and herbs from 59 different manufacturers or countries. Twenty seven single products are in the range 100 to 465 mmol/100 g, but the variation is from 0.08 mmol/100 g in raw garlic paste procured in Japan, to 465 mmol/100 g in dried and ground clove purchased in Norway. Sorted by antioxidant content, clove has the highest mean antioxidant value, followed by peppermint, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, saffron and estragon, all dried and ground, with mean values ranging from 44 to 277 mmol/100 g. When analyzed in fresh samples compared to dried, oregano, rosemary and thyme have lower values, in the range of 2.2 to 5.6 mmol/100 g. This is also true for basil, chives, dill and parsley. In addition to common spices and culinary herbs, we have also analyzed other herbs, like birch leaves, wild marjoram and wood cranesbill among others. Details on all herbs can be found in Additional file 1, the Antioxidant Food Table.
Just like many of us love to eat chocolate, so does the good bacteria living in your gut, according to a study presented to the American Chemical Society. The nutrients found in chocolate, such as polyphenols, antioxidants, and fiber, aren’t easily digestible, but when good bacteria feeds on the fiber, compounds that are smaller, easily absorbable, and non-inflammatory are released. As a result, inflammation in cardiovascular tissue can be reduced.
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An excerpt of the 425 spices and herbs analyzed in our study are presented in Table ​Table5.5. The study includes spices and herbs from 59 different manufacturers or countries. Twenty seven single products are in the range 100 to 465 mmol/100 g, but the variation is from 0.08 mmol/100 g in raw garlic paste procured in Japan, to 465 mmol/100 g in dried and ground clove purchased in Norway. Sorted by antioxidant content, clove has the highest mean antioxidant value, followed by peppermint, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, saffron and estragon, all dried and ground, with mean values ranging from 44 to 277 mmol/100 g. When analyzed in fresh samples compared to dried, oregano, rosemary and thyme have lower values, in the range of 2.2 to 5.6 mmol/100 g. This is also true for basil, chives, dill and parsley. In addition to common spices and culinary herbs, we have also analyzed other herbs, like birch leaves, wild marjoram and wood cranesbill among others. Details on all herbs can be found in Additional file 1, the Antioxidant Food Table.

What do free radicals do exactly, and why are they so destructive? The body uses antioxidants to prevent itself from the damage caused by oxygen. Electrons exist in pairs; free radicals are missing an electron. This is their weapon of sorts. They “react” with just about anything they come into contact with, robbing cells and compounds of one of their electrons. This makes the affected cell or compound unable to function and turns some cells into “electron-seeking muggers,” leading to a chain reaction in the body and the proliferation of free radicals. Free radicals then damage DNA, cellular membranes and enzymes.
Scientists believe when we eat plant foods (luscious dark chocolate comes from the cacao plant) rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, their benefits are passed on to us. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules thought to be responsible for aging and some diseases. “When you have too many free radicals in your body, they start to attack your cells, and that can lead, over time, to low-grade inflammation and to some diseases — cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s,” DuBost says.
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.

Catsicas predicted that Herbert's mood would improve as the two week period progressed, but it seems she experienced the opposite. "It's very difficult to give up something that you are so used to," says Herbert. "It's not a small change and there were days where I was grumpy and frustrated. Chocolate and sweet coffee were my vices and suddenly I had no crutch to lean on during stressful times.
Alongside lowering blood pressure and improving heart health, dark chocolate also has a few cholesterol-lowering tricks up its sleeve. Studies have shown that just one week of dark chocolate consumption was enough to improve lipid profiles and decrease platelet reactivity for both men and women (7). This may be due to the fact that the cocoa butter in dark chocolate contains some of the same heart-healthy fatty acids found in olive oil.
Before you swap refined sugar for artificial sweeteners, you may want to keep reading. Artificial sweeteners also appear to have several negative effects on the brain. Sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, are not healthy alternatives to sugar. These sweeteners are in a variety of foods and drinks, such as diet soda, sugar-free snacks, and energy drinks.
I only recommend buying and eating small amounts of minimally processed dark chocolate with a cacao content of at least 70 percent. This type of chocolate contains the most powerful antioxidants and the least amount of sugar. Thankfully, there are a lot of chocolate brands today that offer options that fits this 70 percentage minimum suggestion. The higher the percentage, the greater the potential health benefits of dark chocolate.
The bottom line is, try to wean yourself from sugar. And, learn to enjoy the truly natural sweetness of fruits and berries. And, if you must use sweeteners to make your food more interesting, there are many alternatives from which to choose. However, if your goal is to be as healthy as you can, your best choice is stevia. Moderation is key. Make the best choices you can most of the time, and your life can be pretty sweet.

According to Harvard University, a systolic pressure under 120 (the first number) and a diastolic pressure under 80 (the second number) is considered normal. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is indicated by a systolic pressure of 140 or higher and/or a diastolic pressure of 90 or higher. Before and during the challenge Herbert had normal numbers and there was no reason for concern. 
To date, studies have confirmed that chronic inflammation contribute to factors that increase your risk of developing cancer, including DNA mutations and cancer cell growth. Research has confirmed that the antioxidants in dark chocolate have a strong ability to fight the DNA damage that could lead to cancer development, as well as reduce certain inflammation enzymes that could encourage its growth (12).
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.
So, what can you do to satisfy your sweet tooth? Due to the research on the negative effects of sugar on the brain, it’s best to limit foods high in sugar. It’s also important to steer clear of artificial sweeteners. Fortunately, there are some alternatives to enjoy a sweet treat while avoiding the health risks. Below are a few options to consider:
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Chocolate milk also contains carbohydrates, which is great for your health, especially if you have been lifting a whole lot of weights. The count of carbohydrates also depends on the product you use. Different products have different content and levels of carbohydrates. Hershey’s Chocolate Milk seems to have the highest carb count whereas Hoods Calorie Countdown has the lowest. The sugar in this will boost your energy and restore it. You will be able to work out harder and better next time you hit the gym. In fact, this will help you enjoy the workout better. If your muscle tissues tear up, this will stop them from getting sore. In fact, they will get repaired on their own.


Eleanor Healy is a writer with a passion for holistic health. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), Reiki Master/Teacher and former Child and Youth Care worker, she spent many years navigating the choppy waters of burnout and trying to stay balanced in a demanding world. Her mission is to offer practical tips and techniques from her own trial and error process, so that you can live your best life! Follow Eleanor on Facebook and keep in touch with her at [email protected].
Herbert had softer stool for all the days of the challenge, and on seven out of the 14 days she went to the bathroom more than once. "This is not normal for me, but everything was 'smoother'. I started using Xylitol [a sweetener] towards the end, but it upset my stomach. This was a side-effect that made it more difficult to sustain the challenge."  
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.
Dark chocolate contains 50-90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, whereas milk chocolate contains anywhere from 10-50% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk in some form, and sugar. Though dark chocolate should not contain milk, there may be traces of milk from cross-contamination during processing, as the same machinery is often used to produce milk and dark chocolate. Lower quality chocolates may also add butter fat, vegetable oils, or artificial colors or flavors. White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids and is made simply of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk.
The bottom line is, try to wean yourself from sugar. And, learn to enjoy the truly natural sweetness of fruits and berries. And, if you must use sweeteners to make your food more interesting, there are many alternatives from which to choose. However, if your goal is to be as healthy as you can, your best choice is stevia. Moderation is key. Make the best choices you can most of the time, and your life can be pretty sweet.

Flavonoids have been shown to offer significant protection for neurons in your brain and nervous system. Specifically, they reduce neuroinflammation, which has been found to be a major cause of the development of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, their ability to increase cerebral blood flow encourages the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, which processes memory (13).
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.
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.
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.

Every single one of us has both antioxidants and free radicals present inside of our bodies at all times. Some antioxidants are made from the body itself, while we must get others from our diets by eating high antioxidant foods that double as anti-inflammatory foods. Our bodies also produce free radicals as byproducts of cellular reactions. For example, the liver produces and uses free radicals to detoxify the body, while white blood cells send free radicals to destroy bacteria, viruses and damaged cells.


Stresses the Liver: “When we eat fructose, it goes to the liver. If liver glycogen is low, such as after a run, the fructose will be used to replenish it (3).However, most people aren’t consuming fructose after a long workout and their livers are already full of glycogen. When this happens, the liver turns the fructose into fat (2). Some of the fat gets shipped out, but part of it remains in the liver. The fat can build up over time and ultimately lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (4, 5, 6).”
Most common fruits, vegetables and herbs in the diet that contain antioxidants include forms like vitamin E, lutein, vitamin C, beta-carotene, flavonoids and lycopene. While there is currently no official recommended daily allowance for antioxidants or antioxidant foods, generally speaking the more you consume each day from real foods in your diet the better.

In a study conducted by the Hershey Co. and published in Chemistry Central Journal, the total flavanol and polyphenol content as well as antioxidant activity content of dark chocolate and cocoa powder were compared to super fruits like acai, cranberry, blueberry and pomegranate. The dark chocolates, cocoa powders and cocoa beverage in the study all contained natural or non-alkalized cocoa. This is important to note since the alkalinization of cocoa has been shown to destroy healthy polyphenolic compounds.
This work was funded by the Throne Holst foundation, The Research Council of Norway, and the Norwegian Cancer Society. The authors thank Amrit K. Sakhi, Nasser Bastani, Ingvild Paur and Trude R. Balstad for help procuring samples, the Tsumura Pharmaceutical Company for providing traditional herb medicines and Arcus AS and Norsk Øko-Urt BA for providing samples of beverages and herbs, respectively.
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 sugar you consume enters the blood stream as part of the body’s natural process. The more refined sugar you consume, the higher your blood sugar levels rise. All of that sugar heads to the heart, where studies show it can cause damage to the vital muscle. The sugar may stress the heart and affect functioning. It can cause inflammation of the artery linings. Over


Small-scale studies have indicated for quite some time that regular intake of cocoa can have a positive effect in fighting cardiovascular disease. A more recent study on cocoa's cardiovascular benefits, done in 2006, proved this among a larger study group of 470 men, all tested while consuming different daily doses of cocoa. The conclusions were that cocoa does indeed lower the chances and significance of cardiovascular disease.
This work was funded by the Throne Holst foundation, The Research Council of Norway, and the Norwegian Cancer Society. The authors thank Amrit K. Sakhi, Nasser Bastani, Ingvild Paur and Trude R. Balstad for help procuring samples, the Tsumura Pharmaceutical Company for providing traditional herb medicines and Arcus AS and Norsk Øko-Urt BA for providing samples of beverages and herbs, respectively.
Although some preliminary studies suggest that antioxidant supplements may help thwart disease development by reducing oxidative stress, more research is needed before such supplements can be recommended for disease prevention. In fact, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that findings from rigorous scientific studies involving a total of more than 100,000 people have largely indicated that antioxidant supplements may not reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer.
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.
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