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."  
It’s helpful to understand a little about how sugar is used by the brain. The carbohydrates you eat, including sugars, are broken down into glucose. Your brain needs glucose to function properly. Unfortunately, many people eat much more sugar than they need. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the average American eats the equivalent of about 42 teaspoons of sugar a day. That added sugar comes from various sources, such as table sugar, baked goods, and sugary drinks.

When it comes to your bone health, yet again salt is the white crystal in shining armor. When we cut our salt intake, to the level that every dietary guideline tells us to, this can cause calcium and magnesium depletion from the body. When our intake of salt goes down, the body seems to pull sodium as well as calcium and magnesium from the bone, likely increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Low salt diets also increase the loss of magnesium in sweat—the body pushing out more magnesium instead of sodium in order to conserve low sodium reserves. All of this can take its toll on the health of our bones. In fact, consuming more salt may protect your bones, whereas consuming a diet high in sugar is clearly harmful. The next time you decide to reach for the sugar bowl, think twice, grabbing the salt shaker instead just may end up saving your life.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition featured a study that found those with high levels of vitamin C in their blood had almost a 50 percent decreased risk of stroke. Countless studies also have found that people who consume highly plant-based diets — loaded with things like fresh veggies, herbs, spices and fruit — have a better chance of living longer and healthier lives with less heart disease. (6)
The world’s love affair with chocolate has only grown over the years. We love it drizzled on ice cream, mixed with warm milk for a delicious beverage, or combined with nuts and caramel for a tempting treat. Chocolate remains one of our favorite indulgences; Americans eat around $18.27 billion worth of chocolate every year—nearly 18 percent of the world’s chocolate confectionary, according to 2015 statistics released by Euromonitor International. And as culinary artists continue to create new ways to experiment with cocoa, dark chocolate has grown in popularity as a rich and intense alternative to milk chocolate.
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.

The Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands of Panama, who drink roughly three cups of a cacao beverage daily and have a very low prevalence of hypertension, myocardial infarction and stroke compared to those on the mainland, are a good example of chocolate’s benefits at work. In addition, studies have found that their blood pressure doesn’t rise with age (4).
Because refined dietary sugars lack minerals and vitamins, they must draw upon the body's micro-nutrient stores in order to be metabolized into the system. When these storehouses are depleted, metabolization of cholesterol and fatty acid is impeded, contributing to higher blood serum triglycerides, cholesterol, promoting obesity due to higher fatty acid storage around organs and in sub-cutaneous tissue folds.
When it comes to your kidneys, it's easy to think that salt is the harmful white crystal. This is because we are constantly being told that eating too much salt is stressful on our kidney-shaped organs. However, this does not appear to be true. Indeed, the evidence in the literature shows that overconsuming sugar drives chronic kidney disease, whereas not consuming enough salt can actually cause kidney issues. In fact, one study concluded kidney function actually deteriorates with a low-salt diet due to impaired blood flow to the kidneys.

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.

Cuts down risks for heart disease – Eating dark chocolate a few times a week should cause much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries and we should see a lower risk of heart disease over the long term. There are studies that revealed that eating chocolate 2 or more times per week greatly lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries. Eating chocolate less frequently had no effect. So regular consumption of dark chocolate can in fact reduce the risk of heart disease.

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."  

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:

With their high content of phytochemicals such as flavonoids, tannins, stilbenoids, phenolic acids and lignans [43-45] berries and berry products are potentially excellent antioxidant sources. The phytochemical content of berries varies with geographical growing condition, and between cultivars [46,47] explaining the variations found in our study. During the processing of berries to jams, total phenol content is reduced [48] resulting in lower antioxidant values in processed berry products than in fresh berries.
Of the over 4 million cancer patients being treated in the U.S. today, almost none are offered any scientifically guided nutrition therapy other than being told to "just eat good foods." Many cancer patients would have a major improvement in their conditions if they controlled the supply of cancer's preferred fuel: GLUCOSE. By slowing the cancer's growth, patients make it possible for their immune systems to catch up to the disease. Controlling one's blood-glucose levels through diet, exercise, supplements, meditation and prescription drugs - when necessary - can be one of the most crucial components to a cancer treatment program. The saying "Sugar feeds cancer" is simple. The explanation is a little more involved.

Observational studies support the benefits of cocoa flavanols. The link between blood pressure and high cocoa intake was described in a study of the Kuna Indians, an isolated tribe who live on the Caribbean Coast of Panama. [5] Hypertension was extremely uncommon in this group, even among older ages, and even with a dietary salt intake that is greater than most Western populations. When the Kuna migrated to urban environments and changed their diets, their rates of high blood pressure increased. Notably, their traditional intake of cocoa as a beverage was very high, at more than five cups daily of either home-grown or Columbian cocoa powder rich in flavanols. The urinary levels of flavanols in the island-dwelling Kuna were significantly higher and their rates of death from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes significantly lower than their counterparts living in urban centers.
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.
We know that glucose and vitamin C have similar chemical structures, so what happens when the sugar levels go up? They compete for one another upon entering the cells. And the thing that mediates the entry of glucose into the cells is the same thing that mediates the entry of vitamin C into the cells. If there is more glucose around, there is going to be less vitamin C allowed into the cell. It doesn't take much: a blood sugar value of 120 reduces the phagocytic index by 75%. So when you eat sugar, think of your immune system slowing down to a crawl.
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.
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.

When certain types of oxygen molecules are allowed to travel freely in the body, they cause what’s known as oxidative damage, which is the formation of free radicals. When antioxidant levels in the body are lower than that of free radicals — due to poor nutrition, toxin exposure or other factors — oxidation wreaks havoc in the body. The effect? Accelerated aging, damaged or mutated cells, broken-down tissue, the activation of harmful genes within DNA, and an overloaded immune system.
A study conducted at the University of Oslo in Norway compiled 3,100 food items using the FRAP assay method of measurement, which extracts the antioxidant value of foods and beverages with the scale of millimoles/100 grams. Millimoles are 1/1000 of a mole (a unit of measurement that allows the conversion between atoms/molecules and grams). Using this measurement, antioxidant values are compared on a scale. The FRAP assay is said to be an inexpensive and easy way to measure antioxidant content.

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.
Lung, prostate, breast, ovarian, bladder, oral and skin cancers have been demonstrated to be suppressed by retinoic acid. (9) Another study collected numerous references demonstrating the findings of retinoic acid in protection against melanoma, hepatoma, lung cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. However, there’s evidence indicating that the benefits of chemicals like retinoic acid are safest when obtained from food naturally, rather than supplements.

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.
There are several types of chocolate, as you probably already know. Most people divide chocolate into three categories: white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. The FDA actually does not have a standard of identity for dark chocolate, but the general consensus is that dark chocolate typically contains between 70 percent to 99 percent pure cacoa or cocoa solids. Some set the standard for dark chocolate even lower at 60 percent or less. This can be done since there is no set standard at the moment.
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.

Reduces stress –If you are one of those chocolate lovers, you know that feeling of happiness and guilt when you put in your mouth that piece of flavorful candy. Now imagine that same feeling but without the guilt! You can achieve that with dark chocolate because now you know that it is better for your health and has much more benefits than regular or milk chocolate. There has been studies were people that ate dark chocolate showed a decreased amount of stress hormone levels.

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.
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.
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.
feeling from consuming sugar, which can make it a tough habit to break. You want to feel good, so you continue reaching for the foods that give you that good feeling. Finding other ways to reward yourself can help replace that feel-good response you get from sugar. Slowly reducing your sugar consumption can also be an effective way to break free from the chains of sugar to slowly improve your overall health.
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.
Cherries have been touted as the new wonder fruit, and based on their antioxidant content we can see why! Cherries are rich in the flavonoids, isoqueritrin and queritrin, which act as antioxidants and work to eliminate byproducts of oxidative stress, therefore slowing down the aging process. Cherries are also loaded with Queritrin, a flavonoid believed to be one of the most potent anticancer agents.