If you’re like me, you love to eat chocolate. But not just any chocolate — I eat the varieties that are often referred to as “superfoods.” I’m talking about dark chocolate and cacoa nibs, which are both truly healthy forms of chocolate if you pick the right products. You’re probably thinking how is dark chocolate good for you, and in general, is chocolate good for you? Well, I’m about to tell you all about dark chocolate and how the benefits of dark chocolate are definitely for real.
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.
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.
Choosing the best food sources of antioxidants can go a long way in enhancing your health and fighting disease. A class of compounds found in a wide range of foods (especially plant-derived foods), antioxidants help protect against the damaging effects of free radicals. It's thought that increasing your intake of the best food sources of antioxidants can help fend off a host of major health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and some forms of cancer.
So, if you have been working out for a couple of weeks or are preparing yourself for a marathon soon, you would probably need something that will increase your endurance and help you workout or practice for a longer period. In that case, what could be better than chocolate milk? This will take good care of your body, boost strength and energy and help you give a hundred percent!
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:
Some nutrients are destroyed in the process of making chocolate available for the general market. Make sure the chocolate you buy is within the healthy range. Check the label: Chocolate with a 60 percent or higher cocoa content is packed full of nutrients and antioxidants. Often called bittersweet, it has minimal sugar. The best way to get all the nutrients from chocolate is simply to use unsweetened cocoa nibs. The bitter, crunchy, seed-like snack isn't the best-tasting treat, but its nutritional profile makes it worthwhile.
Initial studies have been carried out to examine the association between intake of antioxidant rich foods and their health effects [67,70]. Some of these studies describe a beneficial effect on oxidative stress related chronic diseases, e.g. from intake of nuts [49,69], pomegranates [71-73], tomatoes , coffee , tea [54,75,76], red wine [77-79] and cocoa . The highly reactive and bioactive phytochemical antioxidants are postulated to in part explain the protective effect of plant foods. An optimal mixture of different antioxidants with complementary mechanisms of action and different redox potentials is postulated to work in synergistic interactions. Still, it is not likely that all antioxidant-rich foods are good sources and that all antioxidants provided in the diet are bioactive. Bioavailability differs greatly from one phytochemical to another [26,27,80], so the most antioxidant rich foods in our diet are not necessarily those leading to the highest concentrations of active metabolites in target tissues. The antioxidants obtained from foods include many different molecular compounds and families with different chemical and biological properties that may affect absorption, transport and excretion, cellular uptake and metabolism, and eventually their effects on oxidative stress in various cellular compartments . Biochemically active phytochemicals found in plant-based foods also have many powerful biological properties which are not necessarily correlated with their antioxidant capacity, including acting as inducers of antioxidant defense mechanisms in vivo or as gene expression modulators. Thus a food low in antioxidant content may have beneficial health effects due to other food components or phytochemicals executing bioactivity through other mechanisms.
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.
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.
But the effects of sugar go far beyond a simple increase in calorie consumption. Sugar consumption affects organs throughout the body, including the liver and heart. It increases your risk of disease. It can affect your thought processes. It even affects the appearance of your skin. Sugar messes with your functioning from head to toe — from minor annoyances to life-threatening health conditions.
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.
Along with antioxidant foods, certain herbs, spices and essential oils derived from nutrient-dense plants are extremely high in healing antioxidant compounds. Here is another list of the herbs you can try adding to your diet for increased protection against disease. Many of these herbs/spices are also available in concentrated essential oil form. Look for 100 percent pure (therapeutic grade) oils, which are highest in antioxidants.
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.
The frequent consumption of small quantities of dark chocolate is linked to lower BMI, according to a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. Chocolate consumption frequency (via a questionnaire) and BMI (weight divided by height in meters squared) were analyzed among 1,018 men and women aged 20 to 85. Mood, activity per 7-day period, fruit and vegetable intake and saturated fat intake were considered and factored into the researchers analysis as well. All in all, the correlation between chocolate consumption and low BMI upheld. The mean age of subjects was 57, of which 68 percent were male, with a BMI of 28 who ate dark chocolate two times per week and exercised about 3.5 times per week.
When we’re under stress, our bodies immediately kick into fight-or-flight mode, releasing large amounts of hormones. Surprisingly, the body has the same chemical response when blood sugar is low. After you eat a sweet snack, stress hormones begin to compensate for the crash by raising your blood sugar. The result? Unexplained anxiousness, irritability, and even shakiness.
Try stevia for a great sugar substitute. Stevia comes from a leaf and does not affect blood glucose levels. It is a great sugar alternative, especially for those with diabetes. Stevia comes in various forms like liquid drops or powders. You can purchase it in packets as well. Some of the brand names for stevia are Truvia, Sweet Leaf, Stevia In The Raw, and PureVia.
An influx of sugar into the bloodstream upsets the body's blood-sugar balance, triggering the release of insulin, which the body uses to keep blood-sugar at a constant and safe level. Insulin also promotes the storage of fat, so that when you eat sweets high in sugar, you're making way for rapid weight gain and elevated triglyceride levels, both of which have been linked to cardiovascular disease. Complex carbohydrates tend to be absorbed more slowly, lessening the impact on blood-sugar levels.
There’s still debate over which antioxidants may offer help preventing or treating diseases when consumed in concentrated dosages. Some research has shown that antioxidants like lutein and glutathione may be beneficial when taken in supplement form — for example, in preventing vision loss, joint problems or diabetes. But other research doesn’t always show the same results and sometimes even that certain supplements like vitamin A or vitamin C may be harmful in high amounts.
Editor's Note: USDA scientists analyzed antioxidant levels in more than 100 different foods, including fruits and vegetables. Each food was measured for antioxidant concentration as well as antioxidant capacity per serving size. Cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries ranked highest among the fruits studied. Beans, artichokes, and Russet potatoes were tops among the vegetables. Pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts ranked highest in the nut category.
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.
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.
Lowers blood pressure – Those same antioxidants that helps improve the blood flow are the ones that also decrease its resistance, and consequently eases the blood pressure in small amounts against the arteries. Even though it releases the pressure just a little bit, in time that is a big benefit for your heart. High blood pressure is always linked to heart diseases. So lowering it little by little is a huge help to eliminate risks.
Eating sugary foods late at night could lead to a rush in energy at a time when we should be focusing on slowing down and preparing the body to rest. Our 'happy hormone', serotonin is largely produced in the gut and is essential for melatonin production – the 'relaxation' hormone – necessary to aid a good night's sleep. If you're someone who has trouble sleeping, then it might help to reduce the sugar in your diet, and be kinder to your gut.