Sugar has a bittersweet reputation when it comes to health. Sugar occurs naturally in all foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, and dairy. Consuming whole foods that contain natural sugar is okay. Plant foods also have high amounts of fiber, essential minerals, and antioxidants, and dairy foods contain protein and calcium.

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.

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.
Due to the higher cocoa content, dark chocolate has a much richer flavor than milk chocolate. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the richer the taste. Cocoa is naturally bitter and very strong-tasting. Chocolate-makers (especially makers of milk chocolate) mellow this flavor by processes, such as alkalizing, fermenting, roasting, and adding milk and/or sugar, all of which can destroy healthy flavanols, alter our ability to use them or negate their health effects all together with unhealthy additives.
Dark chocolate makes my list of 15 brain foods to boost focus and memory for good reason. Previous research showed that “acute as well as chronic ingestion of flavanol-rich cocoa is associated with increased blood flow to cerebral gray matter and it has been suggested that cocoa flavanols might be beneficial in conditions with reduced cerebral blood flow, including dementia and stroke.” 

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.
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.
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.

A recent study by Swedish researchers found that women who ate high amounts of chocolate — about two candy bars per week — had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke. In a similar study, British researchers also found that people who ate more chocolate were 30 percent less likely to have a stroke. However, researchers added that more study is needed to determine the exact amount and types of flavonoid-rich chocolates that would be most help lessen stroke risk.

Here we are getting a little bit closer to the roots of disease. It doesn't matter what disease we are talking about, whether we are talking about a common cold or about cardiovascular disease, or cancer or osteoporosis, the root is always going to be at the cellular and molecular level, and more often than not insulin is going to have its hand in it, if not totally controlling it.
The deep red color of cherries is due to high levels of anthocyanins, also found in blueberries, which reduce inflammation and help lower cholesterol. Canned tart or sour cherries and dried sweet cherries both scored higher for antioxidants than the sweet, fresh variety. Tart cherries pack an added bonus: melatonin, which might help regulate sleep cycles.
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.

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.
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.
Chocolate tastes sinfully sweet, but you may no longer need to feel guilty about indulging in an ounce or two a few times a week. A growing number of studies show that chocolate, especially antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, has health benefits that put it squarely on the latest list of superfoods. A key reason chocolate has so many health benefits is that it is rich in flavonoids, which are naturally occurring substances found in plants that can provide a serious boost in antioxidant action for you.
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.
Sugary drinks, candy, baked goods, and sweetened dairy are the main sources of added sugar. But even savory foods, like breads, tomato sauce, and protein bars, can have sugar, making it all too easy to end up with a surplus of the sweet stuff. To complicate it further, added sugars can be hard to spot on nutrition labels since they can be listed under a number of names, such as corn syrup, agave nectar, palm sugar, cane juice, or sucrose. (See more names for sugar on the graphic below.)

There is not necessarily a direct relationship between the antioxidant content of a food sample consumed and the subsequent antioxidant activity in the target cell. Factors influencing the bioavailability of phytochemical antioxidants, include the food matrix, absorption and metabolism [24-27]. Also, the methods measuring total antioxidant capacity do not identify single antioxidant compounds, and they are therefore of limited use when investigating the mechanisms involved. This is however, not the scope of this article. With the present study, food samples with high antioxidant content are identified, but further investigation into each individual food and phytochemical antioxidant compound is needed to identify those which may have biological relevance and the mechanisms involved.

To melt: Dark chocolate should be heated gradually to prevent scorching. This may be done on a stove top on low heat or in a microwave oven on 50% power. Break chocolate into smaller pieces and place in pan or microwave to heat. Stir continually (or after each minute) to ensure even heating. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of melted dark chocolate over oatmeal, yogurt, or fresh fruit for an easy healthful snack.

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
Dark chocolate may have something in common with carrots: Researchers from the University of Reading in England tested the eyesight of 30 healthy adults, 18 to 25 years old, after they ate white and dark chocolates. The subjects performed better on vision tests after eating the dark chocolate. It could be that the flavanols in dark chocolate, which improve blood flow to the brain, improve blood flow to the retina as well — and white chocolate doesn’t have nearly the same amount of flavanols as dark chocolate.
Over the last few hundred years, the average intake of salt has actually declined. In fact, we now eat one-tenth the amount of salt that we used to consume back in the 1600s in Europe. In those days, we didn't have refrigerators to preserve our food, so everything was packed with salt. During this time of gorging on salt, there wasn’t an obesity or diabetes or hypertension crisis. People back then ate real whole foods and consumed a lot of salt, but they also consumed very little sugar.
In moderation (one ounce or less per day), dark chocolate has been shown to improve so many common and chronic health problems. With all of its natural and health-promoting components (like flavonoids, polyphenols and flavanols), dark chocolate is an antioxidant powerhouse and a superfood that’s truly a joy to eat. It’s been shown to boost heart and brain health, along with fight disease — just some of the many benefits of dark chocolate.

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.
So how do antioxidants improve our health? Consider that your cells are constantly producing a variety of harmful chemicals called free radicals. In addition, your body is also exposed to free radicals in the environment—cigarette smoke, air pollution, and sunlight, for example. These free radicals trigger a process called “oxidative stress,” which damages cells. Oxidative stress is implicated in the aging process and also in many chronic diseases, from cancer to cardiovascular diseases, and from diabetes to dementia.
"She can have fresh fruit as the amount of fructose/glucose in fruit is not high. It's also bound in a food matrix, and with the fibre it contains it doesn't get absorbed like white granulated sugar," Catsicas said. "It does not cause high blood sugar and a corresponding insulin response. The portion size is important, though: only 100 to 150g fruit at a time and, as mentioned, only 1–2 portions per day."