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.
Various types of chocolate were analyzed, from milk chocolate to dark chocolate and baking cocoa. The variation of antioxidant content in chocolate ranged from 0.23 in white chocolate to 14.98 mmol/100 g in one individual dark chocolate sample. Mean antioxidant contents increased with increasing content of cocoa in the chocolate product (Pearson correlation r = 0.927, p < 0.001). Chocolate products with cocoa contents of 24-30%, 40-65% and 70-99% had mean antioxidant contents of 1.8, 7.2 and 10.9 mmol/100 g, respectively.
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."
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.
It’s not exactly agreed upon who first “discovered” antioxidants. Antioxidants have been dated in medical literature to the early 19th and 20th centuries, but researchers and health experts have been discussing them for much longer. Each antioxidant has its own unique history of discovery. Some, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, were first researched by doctors, such as Henry A. Mattill during the 1920s–1950s, used to explain why animals fed whole foods lived longer and remained healthier. (2)
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.
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.
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.
The first high antioxidant foods that probably come to mind is probably fruits and vegetables, and for good reason! They rich in antioxidants and other healthy food components, such as slow release carbohydrates, protein and fiber. Here are the top 15 antioxidant fruits and vegetables commonly available in the U.S. Figures reflect antioxidant content in millimoles (mmol) per 100 g.
The protective effect of antioxidants continues to be studied around the world. For instance, men who eat plenty of the antioxidant lycopene (found in tomatoes) may be less likely than other men to develop prostate cancer. Lutein, found in spinach and corn, has been linked to a lower incidence of eye lens degeneration and associated blindness in the elderly. Flavonoids, such as the tea catechins found in green tea, are believed to contribute to the low rates of heart disease in Japan.
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.
- Cut one source of sugar each week. If the thought of drastically reducing your sugar intake makes you nervous, take a gradual approach. Start cutting sugary treats a little at a time. Cut dessert to one or two days a week. Stop adding sugar to your coffee. Skip the weekly office donut tray. This gives you a chance to adjust to less sugar over time.
The battle of good and evil between these two white crystals rages on in our bodies. Indeed, the assault on our bodies from overconsuming sugar is wreaking metabolic havoc. When you overeat sugar, this causes an increase in insulin (a fat-storing hormone), insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes, whereas eating more salt actually can improve type 2 diabetes.
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.
Enter milk, sugar, and butter—good for your taste buds, not always good for your health. Besides adding calories, these can dilute the benefits of cacao. So snack smart: Stick to healthy chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao (or cocoa, which is cacao in its roasted, ground form). As long as the content is that high, says Mary Engler, Ph.D., a professor of physiological nursing at the University of California at San Francisco, you can reap the benefits from eating only small amounts. Because of its high fat and sugar content, limit yourself to 7 ounces, or about four dark chocolate bars, a week.
In the nuts and seeds category we analyzed 90 different products, with antioxidant contents varying from 0.03 mmol/100 g in poppy seeds to 33.3 mmol/100 g in walnuts, with pellicle and purchased with nut shell intact. Pecans with pellicle, sunflower seeds and chestnuts with pellicle, have mean antioxidant content in the range of 4.7 to 8.5 mmol/100 g (Table (Table3).3). Walnuts, chestnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds have higher values when analyzed with the pellicle intact compared to without pellicle.