Of all the cruciferous vegetables, broccoli stands out as the most concentrated source of vitamin C, plus it possesss the flavonoids necessary for vitamin C to recycle effectively. Also concentrated in broccoli are the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. But, the antioxidant which is the real standout in broccoli is indole-3-carbinol, a powerful antioxidant compound and anti-carcinogen found to not only hinder the growth of breast, cervical and prostate cancer, but also has been shown to boost liver function.
Fish provides powerful omega-3 fatty acids. Evidence suggests that omega-3s, particularly those coming from fish, may help prevent inflammatory diseases, such as coronary heart disease. Although all fish have some omega-3s, the stars include sardines, salmon, oysters, mackerel, tuna steak, wild rainbow trout, shark steak, albacore tuna, and herring.
The cocoa butter found in dark chocolate contains equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids. It’s true that stearic and palmitic acids are forms of saturated fat, but research shows that stearic acid appears to have a neutral effect on cholesterol, which means it doesn’t raise it or lower it. The palmitic acid in dark chocolate can increase cholesterol levels, but thankfully it only makes up about a small portion of the fat in dark chocolate — plus dark chocolate has a lot of great plant nutrients that make up for palmitic acid.
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.
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.
Efforts to mimic nature’s antioxidants have largely failed. In fact, some antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene, are even harmful to health in large doses. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) recommends, “Do not use antioxidant supplements to replace a healthy diet or conventional medical care, or as a reason to postpone seeing a healthcare provider about a medical problem. If you are considering a dietary supplement, first get information on it from reliable sources.” Dietary supplements contain active ingredients, so always check for interactions with your medications.
As if the other benefits weren’t enough, a Harvard University study found that one or two doses of dark chocolate per week could even help you live longer. In the study, researchers compared men who ate chocolate with those who didn’t and found that the former group lived one year longer. More research is still being conducted to determine the exact role chocolate plays in longevity.
One of the components found in dark chocolate is theobromine. Theobromine is structurally quite similar to caffeine, its sister chemical. Theobromine, when consumed in larger amounts, can cause a dip in blood pressure, excitability and give energy. This energy can be followed by a crash, leading some critics to tout chocolate as a dangerous addictive substance.
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.
Candy as a diabetes foe? Sure enough. 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. "Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production," says lead researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D., a professor at the University of L'Aquila in Italy. "And that helps control insulin sensitivity."
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.
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.