In the brain, excess sugar impairs both our cognitive skills and our self-control (having a little sugar stimulates a craving for more). Sugar has drug-like effects in the reward center of the brain. Scientists have proposed that sweet foods—along with salty and fatty foods—can produce addiction-like effects in the human brain, driving loss of self-control, overeating, and subsequent weight gain.

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 FRAP assay of Benzie and Strain [13] was used with minor modifications that allowed quantification of most water- and fat-soluble antioxidants [16,17]. A Technicon RA 1000 system (Technicon instruments corporation, New York, USA) was used for the measurements of absorption changes that appear when the TPTZ-Fe3+ complex reduces to the TPTZ-Fe2+ form in the presence of antioxidants. An intense blue color with absorption maximum at 593 nm develops. The measurements were performed at 600 nm after 4 min incubation. An aqueous solution of 500 μmol/L FeSO4 × 7 H2O was used for calibration of the instrument. Validation of the assay is described in Halvorsen et al. 2002 [17]. Briefly, the within-day repeatability measured as relative standard deviation (RSD) in standard solutions ranged from 0.4% to 6%. The between-day repeatability was < 3%. The variation in the values for replicate food items obtained from the same source were typically between 3 and 10 RSD%.
As if the other benefits weren’t enough, a Harvard University study found that one or two doses of dark chocolate per week could even help you live longer. In the study, researchers compared men who ate chocolate with those who didn’t and found that the former group lived one year longer. More research is still being conducted to determine the exact role chocolate plays in longevity.
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If you have high blood sugar, you could be on the road to diabetes already. “Insulin resistance requires the pancreas to produce more insulin since tissues are not as sensitive to it,” Ed Saltzman, MD, a scientist in the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University says. “Over time, the pancreas can become fatigued by this excess production and stop being able to secrete adequate insulin. When this occurs, type 2 diabetes may develop.” These are the sneaky sources of added sugar you don’t realize you’re eating.
To date, studies have confirmed that chronic inflammation contribute to factors that increase your risk of developing cancer, including DNA mutations and cancer cell growth. Research has confirmed that the antioxidants in dark chocolate have a strong ability to fight the DNA damage that could lead to cancer development, as well as reduce certain inflammation enzymes that could encourage its growth (12).
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.
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.
Luckily, increasing your daily antioxidant intake is pretty simple; they're found in many of your favorite fruits, nuts, veggies, and even sweets! Wondering where to find the most antioxidants? We combed through a database of more than 3,100 foods, drinks, herbs, and spices (originally compiled and published in Nutrition Journal in 2010) to find the top 10 antioxidant-rich foods (per 100 grams) that you need in your diet.
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.”
Refined carbs, like those in white bread and pasta, quickly cause a rise in glucose in the bloodstream, so you might feel extra energized—for a while. But this short-term fix can actually leave you more sluggish later on (when you eventually crash). Instead, opt for protein-rich snacks between meals, such as Greek yogurt with fresh berries or fresh veggies and hummus. They help stabilize blood sugar and keep you going longer.

Really good point above, Tanya. As a physician I recommend that many patients use supplements (carefully selected–I like ConsumerLab.com and Labdoor.com–they test for purity and contaminants of numerous brands out there), but I also warn lots of patients, especially as those taking blood thinners (e.g., Coumadin or possibly Xarelto) NOT to use hemp/CBD/Medical THC or turmeric because those natural products could interact with their blood thinners (and even some anti platelet medications like Plavix & Aspirin) to cause a dangerous hemorrhage. Also, not to take things in excess, even if ‘natural,’ because our liver and kidneys still have to metabolise them–so have your doctor monitor the function of both organ systems at least yearly. Always good to be informed when adding integrative medicine to our daily regimens.

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.
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.
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.
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.
Certain vitamins and minerals support healthy blood sugar levels. Magnesium in leafy green vegetables and nuts, for instance, can improve insulin sensitivity. Eating a whole, unprocessed foods diet can provide these nutrients to optimize immune function. A multivitamin-mineral (available for men, women, and kids) can cover the nutrient bases you might not be getting from food.

Protects against sun –The flavonols can protect against sun-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration. If you are out in the sun, dark chocolate can reduce your possibilities of getting sun burned or just help not to burn your skin as much. And if you were to get sun burned, it can help you heal quicker.
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.
They tested this by giving subjects different cough medicines. One group received common cough medicine with codeine; the second group received a solution of theobromine and the third group was placebo. They were exposed to capsaicin (the chemical responsible for making chili peppers spicy.) Their intention was to see how much capsaicin was required to induce five coughs. Having one's lungs exposed to capsaicin will usually cause even the most hardened chili-head to break into a coughing fit.
If you want to increase your intake of high antioxidant foods changing your diet is the way to go. Begin by cutting down on processed foods—which are often devoid of antioxidants and promote free radical formation—and replacing them with fresh vegetables, fruits, and minimally processed grains. If you love bread, switch to whole grain; if you have a sweet tooth, grab a few pieces of dried apples or apricots, or a couple of squares of dark chocolate. And, of course, season your cooking with herbs or spices.
According to the FDA, chocolates are unfortunately one of the most common sources of undeclared milk linked to consumer reactions. In addition, recent testing by the FDA found that you can’t always tell if a dark chocolate has milk just by reading the ingredient list. Many manufacturers make their dark chocolate on the same equipment that they use for milk chocolate production so traces of milk end up in the dark chocolate too. (25)  If you’re concerned about milk possibly being in your dark chocolate, contact the manufacturer.
Now that you understand the negative effects of sugar on your body and mind, it’s time to be more careful when choosing foods. The first step is getting educated about how to find added sugars. When it comes to convenience and packaged foods, let the ingredients label be your guide—you’d be surprised how many low carb or “diet” foods contain added sugar.

An unhealthy liver is just one of the many effects of sugar on the body, especially when it’s consumed in large amounts.  “Fructose is metabolized in the liver, and consuming too much can lead to the production of fat in the liver, which is another path to adverse metabolic health,” Dr. Malik says. According to the University of California San Francisco, rates of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, as well as scarring of the liver, have doubled since 1980. Follow these 9 tricks to reverse a sugar binge.
If you have diabetes, too much sugar can lead to kidney damage. The kidneys play an important role in filtering your blood sugar. Once blood sugar levels reach a certain amount, the kidneys start to let excess sugar into your urine. If left uncontrolled, diabetes can damage the kidneys, which prevents them from doing their job in filtering out waste in your blood. This can lead to kidney failure.
Every single one of us has both antioxidants and free radicals present inside of our bodies at all times. Some antioxidants are made from the body itself, while we must get others from our diets by eating high antioxidant foods that double as anti-inflammatory foods. Our bodies also produce free radicals as byproducts of cellular reactions. For example, the liver produces and uses free radicals to detoxify the body, while white blood cells send free radicals to destroy bacteria, viruses and damaged cells.
And as it turns out, that kind of emotional eating might not be such a bad thing. You know what kind of havoc stress and its sneaky sidekick cortisol can wreak on your body. Swiss scientists (who else?) found that when very anxious people ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, their stress hormone levels were significantly reduced and the metabolic effects of stress were partially mitigated. After a breakup, break out a dark chocolate bar rather than a pint of ice cream.
Heat oil over medium heat. Mince the garlic finely and saute for about five minutes, stirring or shaking constantly. Add in the garam masala and cumin, and cook for another few minutes until you can smell the spices rising from the pot. Add the water, sliced red chili, coconut flakes and cocoa powder. Bring to a boil, and reduce to medium low and put a lid on, leaving it slightly open. Let simmer for two hours, or until the beans are almost cooked.
Although some preliminary studies suggest that antioxidant supplements may help thwart disease development by reducing oxidative stress, more research is needed before such supplements can be recommended for disease prevention. In fact, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that findings from rigorous scientific studies involving a total of more than 100,000 people have largely indicated that antioxidant supplements may not reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer.
The "glycemic index" is a measure of how a given food affects blood-glucose levels, with each food being assigned a numbered rating. The lower the rating, the slower the absorption and digestion process, which provides a more gradual, healthier infusion of sugars into the bloodstream. On the other hand, a high rating means that blood-glucose levels are increased quickly, which stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin to drop blood-sugar levels. These rapid fluctuations of blood-sugar levels are not healthy because of the stress they place on the body.

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There’s still debate over which antioxidants may offer help preventing or treating diseases when consumed in concentrated dosages. Some research has shown that antioxidants like lutein and glutathione may be beneficial when taken in supplement form — for example, in preventing vision loss, joint problems or diabetes. But other research doesn’t always show the same results and sometimes even that certain supplements like vitamin A or vitamin C may be harmful in high amounts.
Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder and CEO of Wellness Mama, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.
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.
If you have diabetes, too much sugar can lead to kidney damage. The kidneys play an important role in filtering your blood sugar. Once blood sugar levels reach a certain amount, the kidneys start to let excess sugar into your urine. If left uncontrolled, diabetes can damage the kidneys, which prevents them from doing their job in filtering out waste in your blood. This can lead to kidney failure.
The "glycemic index" is a measure of how a given food affects blood-glucose levels, with each food being assigned a numbered rating. The lower the rating, the slower the absorption and digestion process, which provides a more gradual, healthier infusion of sugars into the bloodstream. On the other hand, a high rating means that blood-glucose levels are increased quickly, which stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin to drop blood-sugar levels. These rapid fluctuations of blood-sugar levels are not healthy because of the stress they place on the body.
Along the way, the benefits of dark chocolate have pushed its popularity. You’ve probably seen dark chocolate listed among “must-eat healthy foods” in compilations written by various nutrition experts. Yet depending on how it’s made, dark chocolate also can be high in calories, fat, sugar, and preservatives. So, what’s the real deal? Is dark chocolate healthy?
Eleanor Healy is a writer with a passion for holistic health. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), Reiki Master/Teacher and former Child and Youth Care worker, she spent many years navigating the choppy waters of burnout and trying to stay balanced in a demanding world. Her mission is to offer practical tips and techniques from her own trial and error process, so that you can live your best life! Follow Eleanor on Facebook and keep in touch with her at [email protected].
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.
According to the FDA, chocolates are unfortunately one of the most common sources of undeclared milk linked to consumer reactions. In addition, recent testing by the FDA found that you can’t always tell if a dark chocolate has milk just by reading the ingredient list. Many manufacturers make their dark chocolate on the same equipment that they use for milk chocolate production so traces of milk end up in the dark chocolate too. (25)  If you’re concerned about milk possibly being in your dark chocolate, contact the manufacturer.

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.


It’s important to maintain the balance between antioxidants and oxidants in the body for good health. However, the free radicals or oxidants usually outnumber the antioxidants naturally produced in the body. Therefore, it is important to have a continuous supply of antioxidants from an external source to maintain this balance. Your diet is this external source and it must be packed with good quality antioxidants. This, in turn, provides other benefits like slowing down the signs of ageing, making your skin look youthful and lowering the risk of heart disease. A diet rich in antioxidants is also known to keep your brain active and your gut healthy. Needless to say, all these factors help in improving the quality and length of your life.Here are seven antioxidant rich foods that you must eat regularly and add to your daily diet if you haven’t already:
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.
Today, the level of antioxidants in any substance or food is evaluated with an ORAC score, which stands for “oxygen radical absorption capacity. ORAC tests the power of a plant to absorb and eliminate free radicals. These measurements were developed by the National Institute of Aging and are based on 100 grams of each food or herb. While ORAC scores are no longer available via the National Institutes of Health, you can still find many of them on Superfoodly.
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.

Cranberries are not just another staple on the American Holiday table. They pack some serious antioxidant punch and are also well known for their beneficial effect on preventing urinary tract infections. Try 100% cranberry juice diluted in water or sparkling water for a refreshing, tart drink, or add some unsweetened dried cranberries to your trail mix.
A total of 278 fruits and fruit products and 303 vegetables and vegetable products were included in the database. In the analyzed vegetables, antioxidant content varied from 0.0 mmol/100 g in blanched celery to 48.1 mmol/100 g in dried and crushed leaves of the African baobab tree. In fruits, procured in 8 different countries, the antioxidant content varies from 0.02 mmol/100 g for watermelon to 55.5 mmol/100 g in the yellow pith of Spanish pomegranate. Examples of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables were dried apples, flour made of okra, artichokes, lemon skin, dried plums, dried apricots, curly kale, red and green chili and prunes (Table ​(Table4).4). Examples of fruit and vegetables in the medium antioxidant range were dried dates, dried mango, black and green olives, red cabbage, red beets, paprika, guava and plums.
When we’re under stress, our bodies immediately kick into fight-or-flight mode, releasing large amounts of hormones. Surprisingly, the body has the same chemical response when blood sugar is low. After you eat a sweet snack, stress hormones begin to compensate for the crash by raising your blood sugar. The result? Unexplained anxiousness, irritability, and even shakiness.

An excerpt of the 425 spices and herbs analyzed in our study are presented in Table ​Table5.5. The study includes spices and herbs from 59 different manufacturers or countries. Twenty seven single products are in the range 100 to 465 mmol/100 g, but the variation is from 0.08 mmol/100 g in raw garlic paste procured in Japan, to 465 mmol/100 g in dried and ground clove purchased in Norway. Sorted by antioxidant content, clove has the highest mean antioxidant value, followed by peppermint, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, saffron and estragon, all dried and ground, with mean values ranging from 44 to 277 mmol/100 g. When analyzed in fresh samples compared to dried, oregano, rosemary and thyme have lower values, in the range of 2.2 to 5.6 mmol/100 g. This is also true for basil, chives, dill and parsley. In addition to common spices and culinary herbs, we have also analyzed other herbs, like birch leaves, wild marjoram and wood cranesbill among others. Details on all herbs can be found in Additional file 1, the Antioxidant Food Table.
Important Disclaimer: The information contained on Health Ambition is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Any statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA and any information or products discussed are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease or illness. Please consult a healthcare practitioner before making changes to your diet or taking supplements that may interfere with medications.
“Dr. David Reuben, author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Nutrition says, “white refined sugar-is not a food. It is a pure chemical extracted from plant sources, purer in fact than cocaine, which it resembles in many ways. Its true name is sucrose and its chemical formula is C12H22O11. It has 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms, 11 oxygen atoms, and absolutely nothing else to offer.” …The chemical formula for cocaine is C17H21NO4. Sugar’s formula again is C12H22O11. For all practical purposes, the difference is that sugar is missing the “N”, or nitrogen atom.”
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.
Alongside lowering blood pressure and improving heart health, dark chocolate also has a few cholesterol-lowering tricks up its sleeve. Studies have shown that just one week of dark chocolate consumption was enough to improve lipid profiles and decrease platelet reactivity for both men and women (7). This may be due to the fact that the cocoa butter in dark chocolate contains some of the same heart-healthy fatty acids found in olive oil.
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)
"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." 
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