The research is piling up that soda is bad for your brain, as are other added sugars. An animal study from Oregon State University found that a high-sugar diet led to cognitive impairments, including memory problems. And a UK study recently found the “tipping point” at which blood sugar negatively affects the progression of Alzheimer’s. “Excess sugar is well known to be bad for us when it comes to diabetes and obesity, but this potential link with Alzheimer’s disease is yet another reason that we should be controlling our sugar intake in our diets,” study author Dr. Omar Kassaar of the University of Bath said in a press release.
Among the fruits, vegetables and nuts analyzed, 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.
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 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.

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.


The occasional candy or cookie can give you a quick burst of energy (or “sugar high”) by raising your blood sugar levels fast. When your levels drop as your cells absorb the sugar, you may feel jittery and anxious (a.k.a. the dreaded “sugar crash”). But if you’re reaching into the candy jar too often, sugar starts to have an effect on your mood beyond that 3 p.m. slump: Studies have linked a high sugar intake to a greater risk of depression in adults.
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.
When you eat excess sugar, the extra insulin in your bloodstream can affect your arteries, part of your body’s circulatory system. It causes their walls to grow faster than normal and get tense, which adds stress to your heart and damages it over time. This can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Research also suggests that eating less sugar can help lower blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. Plus, people who eat a lot of added sugar (where at least 25% of their calories comes from added sugar) are twice as likely to die of heart disease as those whose diets include less than 10% of total calories from added sugar.

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 [6], coffee [74], tea [54,75,76], red wine [77-79] and cocoa [56]. 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 [24]. 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.
This is the most antioxidant rich category in the present study and is also the category with largest variation between products. Half of the products have antioxidant values above the 90th percentile of the complete Antioxidant Food Table and the mean and median values are 91.7 and 14.2 mmol/100 g, respectively. The 59 products included originate from India, Japan, Mexico and Peru. Sangre de Grado (Dragon's Blood) from Peru has the highest antioxidant content of all the products in the database (2897.1 mmol/100 g). Other antioxidant rich products are Triphala, Amalaki and Arjuna from India and Goshuyu-tou, a traditional kampo medicine from Japan, with antioxidant values in the range of 132.6 to 706.3 mmol/100 g. Only four products in this category have values less than 2.0 mmol/100 g.

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

Did you know up to 68 percent of people might not get the proper amounts of magnesium, an important player in over 300 bodily processes? Dark chocolate is a solid source of the mineral, says Aragon. About 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate, two squares of that Trader Joe’s dark chocolate, packs about 228 mg magnesium, putting you well on your way to the 400 mg recommended a day.
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.
Feeling a bit sluggish? Consider snacking on a square or two of dark chocolate—the darker, the better. A study published in NeuroRegulation found that chocolate containing cacao amounts above 60 percent can have significant stimulatory effects on the brain, which can make you more alert and attentive. (See “Cacao vs. Cocoa” sidebar.) Although researchers aren’t quite sure why cacao has this type of effect on the brain, they do know that it increases occipital beta EEG readings, which corresponds directly with attention and alertness.
The new study is more complete and accurate (thanks to updated technology) than previous USDA antioxidant data and includes more foods than the previous study, the researchers say. They analyzed antioxidant levels in over 100 different foods, including fruits and vegetables. In addition, the new study includes data on spices and nuts for the first time.
Evidence that dark chocolate may play a role in cancer prevention is limited but growing. Some preliminary studies on three continents — Europe, Asia, and North America — have shown that people who eat many flavonoids or a lot of antioxidant-rich chocolate develop fewer cancers than those who don’t consume them. Of the many flavonoids in chocolate, two in particular, epicatechin and quercetin, are believed to be responsible for the cancer-fighting properties.

Spinach is one of the richest sources of antioxidants, with one cup containing over 3,600 IU of beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant known for its anti-cancer, anti-aging properties, and heart protecting properties. Spinach also offers an abundance of the antioxidant, lutein, which is beneficial in protecting your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts.
While we all like to indulge once in a while, foods that quickly affect blood sugar contribute to a greater risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.1 Emerging research also suggests connections between these high-glycemic diets and various forms of cancer.2,3,4 These effects are often a result of added sugars working in your body, so be sure to read those nutrition labels.
While antioxidant content is important for many reasons (mainly as a protection against free radicals that can cause disease and degeneration of the body), foods with low numbers don’t necessarily have to be banished from your diet. Foods contain other nutrients that will round out your healthy eating regime. This scale is just a useful way to add more antioxidant rich foods into your meals.
These antioxidants are believed to be easily transported around the body, especially to the delicate parts of the eyes called the macula and the lens. In fact, there are more than 600 different types of carotenoids found in nature, but only about 20 make their way into the eyes. (4) Of those 20, lutein and zeaxanthin are the only two that are deposited in high quantities into the macular portion of the eyes, which is one of the earliest to be damaged during aging.

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. 
Sugar does more to your brain that just foster an addiction to the sweet ingredient. Eating large amounts of sugar can affect the brain’s pathways, potentially decreasing the ability to store new information. Sugar can interfere with communication between nerve cells, potentially altering your mood, memory and processing of information. It can feel as if you are in a fog
Any sugar added in our food is dangerous. We can avoid these dangers by satisfying our sweet tooth with fresh fruit in place of refined sugars. Other concentrated sweeteners, such as agave, honey, and maple syrup are equally dangerous. By eating fresh fruit we get the satisfying sweetness and the added bonus of the fruit’s fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that curtail the surge of sugar in the bloodstream and block its negative effects.
Oxidative stress is believed to play a central role in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, but a nutrient-dense diet seems to lower one’s risk. The Journal of the American Medical Association of Neurology reports that higher intake of foods rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, may modestly reduce long-term risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. (10)
Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in dark chocolate. According to Cleveland Clinic, research has shown that flavanols have a very positive effect on heart health by helping lower blood pressure and improving blood flow to the heart as well as the brain. Dark chocolates flavanols can also help make blood platelets less sticky and able to clot, which reduces the risk of blood clots and stroke. (5)
Foods high in refined sugar are claimed to exacerbate hyperactivity and increase aggressive behavior. Controlled studies have failed to confirm any effect on hyperactivity and effects on inattention have been equivocal. Possible effect on aggressive behavior has received little study. This study assessed cognitive attention and aggressive behavior immediately following an acute ingestion of sugar compared with saccharin and aspartame-sweetened placebos in 17 subjects with attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity compared with 9 age-matched control subjects. The sugar and placebo challenges were given with a breakfast high in carbohydrate. Although the children with attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity were significantly more aggressive than the control subjects, there were no significant effects of sugar or either placebo on the aggressive behavior of either group. However, inattention, as measured by a continuous performance task, increased only in the attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity group following sugar, but not saccharin or aspartame. This result is of questionable clinical significance inasmuch as aggressive behavior was unchanged. The finding may be due to the combination of the sugar challenge with a high-carbohydrate breakfast. These findings should be replicated and any possible clinical significance should be documented before any dietary recommendations can be made.

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In early humans, this stimulus helped lead them to calorie-rich foods, which aided survival when food was scare. But now this primitive drive contributes to our epidemics of obesity and diabetes. The behavioral and neurobiochemical characteristics of substance abuse and overeating are quite similar, and the idea of food addiction is gaining ground among scientists.


In the category "Beverages", 283 products were included, from coffee and tea to beer, wine and lemonades. Dry products like coffee beans and dried tea leaves and powders were also included. The highest antioxidant values in this category were found among the unprocessed tea leaves, tea powders and coffee beans. In Table ​Table22 we present an excerpt of this category and of the analyses of fruit juices. Fifty-four different types of prepared coffee variants procured from 16 different manufacturers showed that the variation in coffees are large, ranging from a minimum of 0.89 mmol/100 g for one type of brewed coffee with milk to 16.33 mmol/100 g for one type of double espresso coffee, the highest antioxidant value of all prepared beverages analyzed in the present study. Other antioxidant rich beverages are red wine, which have a smaller variation of antioxidant content (1.78 to 3.66 mmol/100 g), pomegranate juice, prepared green tea (0.57 to 2.62 mmol/100 g), grape juice, prune juice and black tea (0.75 to 1.21 mmol/100 g) (Table ​(Table2).2). Beer, soft drinks and ginger ale contain the least antioxidants of the beverages in our study, with drinking water completely devoid of antioxidants.
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.
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.

In early humans, this stimulus helped lead them to calorie-rich foods, which aided survival when food was scare. But now this primitive drive contributes to our epidemics of obesity and diabetes. The behavioral and neurobiochemical characteristics of substance abuse and overeating are quite similar, and the idea of food addiction is gaining ground among scientists.
The average American consumes roughly 12 pounds of chocolate each year, and over $75 billion is spent annually worldwide on chocolate. (1) There is a lot of chocolate eating going on regularly, which is why I want to help you make the smart, healthy choice. That way you can have your chocolate without guilt and with health benefits of dark chocolate to boot!

Cocoa is rich in plant chemicals called flavanols that may help to protect the heart. Dark chocolate contains up to 2-3 times more flavanol-rich cocoa solids than milk chocolate. Flavanols have been shown to support the production of nitric oxide (NO) in the endolethium (the inner cell lining of blood vessels) that helps to relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow, thereby lowering blood pressure. [1,2] Flavanols in chocolate can increase insulin sensitivity in short term studies; in the long run this could reduce risk of diabetes. [3,4]
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.
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."  
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