When it comes to protection against things like cancer or heart disease, overall the medical literature seems conflicting. Although some studies found a positive relationship between antioxidant supplementation and risk reduction, others have not found such positive effects. (15) To be safe, always follow directions carefully and speak with your doctor if you’re unsure of whether or not a supplement is right for you. And to remain your healthiest into older age, aim to reduce free radical load in your body by practicing things like:
Many of us take the bait at the word “antioxidant,” buying health and beauty products without knowing exactly how these mysterious compounds actually benefit us. Let's clear that up: “Antioxidants act like little bodyguards to protect our cells from damage that can lead to premature aging and disease,” explains Cynthia Sass, Health’s contributing nutrition editor. They neutralize harmful free radicals, molecules that play a role in cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and more.
The frequent consumption of small quantities of dark chocolate is linked to lower BMI, according to a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. Chocolate consumption frequency (via a questionnaire) and BMI (weight divided by height in meters squared) were analyzed among 1,018 men and women aged 20 to 85. Mood, activity per 7-day period, fruit and vegetable intake and saturated fat intake were considered and factored into the researchers analysis as well. All in all, the correlation between chocolate consumption and low BMI upheld. The mean age of subjects was 57, of which 68 percent were male, with a BMI of 28 who ate dark chocolate two times per week and exercised about 3.5 times per week. 
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.
Studies on brain activity have provided evidence supporting the idea that overeating alters our brain’s reward system, which then further drives overeating. This same process is thought to underlie the tolerance associated with addiction. Over time, greater amounts of the substance are required to reach the same level of reward. Studies imply that overeating results in a diminished reward response and a progressively worsening addiction to low-nutrient foods rich in sugar, salt, and fat.

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.
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.
Another study published in 2015 titled followed the health of over 20,000 people for 11 years. The study concluded that “cumulative evidence suggests that higher chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events” and that “there does not appear to be any evidence to say that chocolate should be avoided in those who are concerned about cardiovascular risk.” Among subjects who consumed the most chocolate, 12 percent developed or died of cardiovascular disease during the study compared to 17.4 percent of those who didn’t eat chocolate. (7) This doesn’t give anyone license to eat a chocolate bar each day, but it’s impressive that this large and lengthy study does appear to show a positive connection between chocolate consumption and heart health.
Dementia – Dementia is a complex illness. Physiological, genetic, and nutritional elements may play a role in the development of certain forms of dementia. For example, it appears Alzheimer’s disease may occur due to a buildup of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain, which disrupts normal function. A study published in the Journal of Gerontology found animal models of dementia may develop due to excess sugar consumption. The excess sugar is thought to cause an insulin reaction that might increase deposits of beta-amyloid proteins and increase the risk of developing dementia.
Sugar and refined carbohydrates are considered 'empty calories', mainly because they don't contain any useful nutrients. Some foods high in sugar are heavily processed, and the sweet stuff is added to make them more palatable and desirable. It's these foods that are not always easy to spot the sugar in, and often those that are marketed as 'healthy', or low in fat which can be the worst offenders. In some cases, ready meals could contain up to 12 teaspoons of sugar per portion, a can of cola houses six and a bowl of dry Bran Flakes has three.
But dark chocolate’s superfood status is likely a bit overblown, says Alan Aragon, M.S., Men’s Health nutrition advisor. “Dark chocolate just happens to have beneficial compounds that favorably influence various health parameters when consumed judiciously.” In this case, judiciously means this: consume in moderation. Since chocolate is energy-dense (read: it’s got 150 to 170 calories per ounce), scarf it down indiscriminately and you’ll easily wind up taking down excess calories and weighing down the scale, he notes.
Juicy and tart Montmorency cherries are your best source of the antioxidant melatonin. Other cherries have it, too, but Montmorency has the most. Melatonin protects the skin against ultraviolet radiation. Researchers have discovered that this powerful little nutrient also helps repair sunburned skin, since 
it stimulates new skin-cell growth. Cherries are also packed with vitamin C, which is needed to build collagen—your skin’s natural “scaffolding” and a wrinkle preventer. Here are some more foods proven to fight wrinkles (and two you should avoid).
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.
The American Heart Association, along with the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, recommend getting antioxidants from whole foods and a wide variety of foods. While it’s always ideal, and usually more beneficial, to get antioxidants or other nutrients directly from real food sources, certain types may also be helpful when consumed in supplement form.
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).
If you eat a piece of fruit, for example, you’re not only consuming sugar (in the form of fructose), but also fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. All of these things help feed the healthy bacteria in your gut and help your body metabolize the sugar found in the fruit. Instead of craving more and more sugar, you’ll stay satiated for a longer period without the massive blood sugar spikes from consuming a treat with a bunch of refined sugar, she says.
Along with antioxidant foods, certain herbs, spices and essential oils derived from nutrient-dense plants are extremely high in healing antioxidant compounds. Here is another list of the herbs you can try adding to your diet for increased protection against disease. Many of these herbs/spices are also available in concentrated essential oil form. Look for 100 percent pure (therapeutic grade) oils, which are highest in antioxidants.
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.
The Antioxidant Food Table is a valuable research contribution, expanding the research evidence base for plant-based nutritional research and may be utilized in epidemiological studies where reported food intakes can be assigned antioxidant values. It can also be used to test antioxidant effects and synergy in experimental animal and cell studies or in human clinical trials. The ultimate goal of this research is to combine these strategies in order to understand the role of dietary phytochemical antioxidants in the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other chronic diseases related to oxidative stress.
Such observational studies don't prove that chocolate is responsible for these benefits. However, the consistent and repeated positive results in studies done on cocoa indicate that chocolate does have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. Chocolate has had such a profound effect on so many systems in the human body some authorities are unsure whether to call it a food or a drug.
With this study we present a comprehensive survey of the total antioxidant capacity in foods. Earlier small-scale studies from other laboratories have included from a few up to a few hundred samples [20-22,29-31], and in 2007 the U.S. Department of Agriculture presented the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods report including 277 food samples [23]. These studies have been done using different antioxidant assays for measuring antioxidant capacity making it difficult to compare whole lists of foods, products and product categories. Still, a food that has a high total antioxidant capacity using one antioxidant assay will most likely also be high using another assay [20-22]. Consequently, the exact value will be different but the ranking of the products will be mainly the same whichever assay is used. In the present extensive study, the same validated method has been used on all samples, resulting in comparable measures, thus enabling us to present a complete picture of the relative antioxidant potential of the samples.