Top 10 antioxidant-rich foods you need to add to your diet

Image: Top 10 antioxidant-rich foods you need to add to your diet

Russel Davis
May 4, 2017

Antioxidants promote a healthier body by eradicating free radicals, which can weaken the immune system and lead to a variety of diseases. An article in states that food is the primary source of essential antioxidants. Certain food groups such as berries, nuts, and leafy greens are touted for their high antioxidant content.

Below is a list of the top 10 foods with the highest antioxidant content.

  1. Berries – Berries are excellent sources of polyphenols, micronutrients, and fiber. Various studies have already established that consuming berries, whether fresh, freeze-dried, or juiced, provide superior protection against heart diseases and certain types of cancers. Blueberries are especially recognized for having the highest antioxidant levels among berries. Other sources of antioxidants include strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, and goji berries.
  2. Green tea – Green tea has been cultivated for centuries because of their high antioxidant properties that help prevent the onset of certain cancers including breast, pancreatic, colorectal, and lung cancer. Green tea is also known to reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, liver disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.
  3. Leafy greens – Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale contain essential phytochemicals that counter the effects of inflammation and carcinogens.
  4. Pomegranates, cherries, grapes, and raisins – Grapes are best known for their high polyphenol content, which is essential in keeping certain types of cancers in check. The high antioxidant levels in grapes and raisins were also tied to lower risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and diabetes-related complications. Pomegranates and cherries are also known to contain high antioxidant levels.
  5. Dark chocolate – Dark chocolate is rich in the antioxidant flavonoids. In fact, just one oz. of dark chocolate contains twice as much antioxidants as red wine.
  6. Plums and prunes – Both plums and prunes are regarded as superfoods for their high antioxidant content. According to recent studies, one plum contains as much antioxidants as a handful of blueberries.
  7. Nuts – Nuts are an excellent source of antioxidants called polyphenols. A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society revealed that walnuts contain twice as much antioxidants as those found in other nuts such as pecans, macadamias, cashews, and pistachios.
  8. Ground cloves – Spices such as ground cloves are not only packed with flavor, they are found to have very high antioxidant content. Other antioxidant-rich spices include turmeric, garlic, ginger as well as cinnamon and oregano.
  9. Kidney beans – Kidney beans have been a kitchen staple for years. These humble legumes contain high amounts of antioxidants.
  10. Artichoke hearts – Artichoke hearts are also found to contain high levels of essential antioxidants.

The research community has long established that antioxidants are essential in maintaining a healthy body. These compounds help protect the body from the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable body molecules that lack electrons. These molecules steal electrons from the nearest healthy cell, which in turn makes the cell sick and prompts a chain reaction within the body. Free radical formation can be caused by exposure to toxins and pollution, smoking, and other environmental factors.

An article in the likens this process to cleaning a fish a tank. The fish tank resembles the body, while the gunk and grime that form in it at are the free radicals. Antioxidants act as bottom-feeder fishes that suck up all the dirt in the tank. In the same manner, antioxidants scavenge the body for free radicals and eliminate them by slowing down or inhibiting the body’s oxidation process. High antioxidant levels in the body may help keep certain diseases in check such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Antioxidants were also associated with improved eye health, immune system and slower aging process.

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12 Natural Athletic Performance Enhancers

Linda Woolven & Ted Snider
August 10, 2016

Have you been inspired by this summer’s Olympic Games? Well, here’s the latest science on how natural supplements can safely improve your workout.


Carbs have been used for thousands of years to enhance exercise. Ancient Greek athletes used honey to boost carbs. And they were on to something. Science says carbs may be the most important nutrient for athletic performance (Int J Sport Nutr 1995;5:S13-38) because they are the most efficient fuel for energy production. So, when it comes to diet, focus on whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables and reduce saturated fats.

Carb drinks that have healthy ingredients are beneficial when the training is of longer duration, though there is no evidence of benefit for training sessions of shorter duration. One study asked cyclists to swish either a simple carbohydrate glucose solution, a more complex carbohydrate maltodextrin solution or a sweetened placebo solution. Both carb solutions led to significantly increased speed, showing the ability of carbs to improve performance (J Physiol 2009;587:1779-94).


Whereas carbs are best for long duration training, creatine is best for short duration, high intensity exercises like weight training or sprinting, whether the sprint is in running, biking or swimming. Over 49 double-blind studies show that creatine improves performance in this kind of exercise. With the exception of cycling, the evidence for creatine for endurance training is weaker. Creatine seems to work because muscle tissue uses it to produce energy. Adding creatine to strength training produces greater increases in muscle size than the strength training alone (Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999;31:1147- 56; Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000;32:654-8; Med Sci Sports Exerc 2001;33:1674-81). It has been shown to improve strength and lean body mass (J Strength Conditioning Res 2009;23:2673-82).

In a placebo-controlled study, the creatine group had greater power output and less fatigue in 30 second maximal sprints on a bicycle (J Sprots Med Phys Fitness 2005;45:507-11).

Creatine will allow you to train harder. Compared to a glucose drink, people drinking the same drink with added creatine experienced less loss of strength on the first 4 days after exercising and lower markers of muscle injury (J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2009;6:13). Compared to a placebo, creatine has been shown to enhance the ability of muscle to resist fatigue (Nutr 2011;27:451-5).

The International Society for Sports Nutrition calls creatine monohydrate “the most effective nutritional supplement available to athletes to increase high intensity exercise capacity and muscle mass during training” (J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2010;7:7-50).

Pinebark Extract

In possibly the most exciting recent sports supplement study, a new superstar has emerged. This study had two parts. The first put two groups of people through an 8 week training program and then tested them on the Army Physical Fitness Test, which consists of as many push ups and sit ups as you can do in 2 minutes and a 2 mile run. The only difference between the two groups was that one was given 100mg a day of pinebark extract (Pycnogenol) and one wasn’t.

The men and women in the pinebark group had significantly better improvements in their 2 mile running time and were able to do significantly more sit ups and push ups. They also had significantly less oxidative damage.

Part 2 put men through 4 weeks of training for a triathlon. One of the groups also took 150mg of pinebark extract. Training improved their times in swimming, biking and running, but the improvements were significantly greater in the pinebark group. The control group had an average time of 96 minutes and 5 seconds; the pinebark group’s average was 89 minutes and 44 seconds. Training alone improved their times by 4.6 minutes; training plus pinebark improved times by 10.8 minutes. The pinebark group also had less oxidative stress and faster recovery times (J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2013;53:644-54).


Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is loaded in nutrients and antioxidants. A double-blind study found that spirulina significantly increased the amount of time people could train on a treadmill before they became exhausted. The spirulina significantly lessened skeletal muscle damage. It also significantly increased antioxidants that occur naturally in the body and significantly decreased free radical damage (Eur J Appl Physiol 2006;98:220-6). So spirulina can help you to work out and help you to stay healthy while you do it.

Other controlled studies have also shown that spirulina can help you work out longer. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that spirulina could significantly improve time to fatigue in a 2 hour moderate intensity run. The spirulina also improved fat burning by 10.9%, and, as in the last study, it improved exercise antioxidant status (Med Sci Sports Exerc 2010;42:142-51).


Phosphatidylserine is another nutrient that can help you work out longer. Double-blind research has shown that it can increase the amount of time you can exercise before becoming exhausted by about 25% (Med Sci Sports Exerc 2006;38:64-71).

Beet Root

Beet root juice is an odd sports drink you’ve probably never heard of before. But several professional and NCAA football team swear by it. Is there anything to it? So far, at least 2 small studies suggest there is.

When 8 healthy people were given .5 litres of beet root juice or a placebo, the beet root juice was found to benefit exercise efficiency (Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 2010;299:R1121-31).

A double-blind study that also used .5 litres of beet root juice found that healthy men increased their time to exhaustion while exercising and significantly reduced the amount of oxygen used by body tissue by about 20% (J Applied Physiol 2009;107:1144-55).


Not usually thought of as a herb for athletes, a double-blind study found that male weight lifters who took fenugreek extract had significantly increased upper and lower body strength compared to a placebo (J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2010;7:34).


23 strength trained male athletes were given either 2.5g a day of betaine, also known as trimethylglycine, or a placebo during 6 weeks of training. The athletes on the betaine had improvements in arm muscle size and bench press training value versus the placebo. They also had significantly improved body composition (fat mass, percent body fat and lean body mass) compared to the placebo (J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2013;10:39).


Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the pain and discomfort that can be experienced for a few days after strenuous exercise. It is experienced as stiffness, tenderness and pain during activity. It is problematic for people in training because, aside from the discomfort, it can limit training.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study gave either a placebo or 300mg of saffron powder or 75mg of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) indomethacine to 39 men for ten days, starting a week before exercise and continuing until 3 days after. The placebo group experienced severe pain for 3 days after the exercise, but pain in the saffron group was 11.2 times lower after 24 hours. The antiinflammatory drug group took 3 days for the pain to go away, but the saffron group had no pain after 48 hours. The researchers concluded that saffron is more effective than indomethacine for DOMS (Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine 2015;25:105-12).


The adaptogenic herb schizandra can improve physical performance. A controlled 1995 Soviet study found that 74% of distance runners ran their best time when taking schizandra.


Fifty-seven men between the ages of eighteen and fifty who were not regular resistance trainers were given either a placebo or 300mg extract of the herb ashwagandha root twice a day for eight weeks. The study was double-blinded. During the eight weeks, the men did a resistance training program that targeted major muscle groups in the upper and lower body. Results were measured by bench press and leg extensions.

After eight weeks, upper body strength improved significantly more in the ashwagandha group: the placebo group increased the amount they bench pressed by 26.4 kg (58 lbs). But the ashwagandha group increased theirs by 46 kg (101 lbs). The same results were obtained for lower body strength. The placebo group increased their leg extensions by 9.8 kg (22 lbs) compared to a 14.5 kg (32 lbs) increase in the ashwagandha group.

And the ashwagandha group built bigger muscles too: arm muscles were 5.3cm larger in the placebo group but 8.6cm larger in the herbal group; chest muscles were 1.4cm larger in the placebo group but 3.3cm larger in the herbal group.

The ashwagandha had other benefits too. It improved muscle recovery time better than placebo and significantly reduced muscle damage. The ashwagandha also produced significantly greater loss of body fat percentage. Testosterone levels also increased significantly more in the ashwagandha group. (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2015;12:43).

Dark Chocolate

People who had a chocolate drink during their recovery period after exercise were than able to cycle 51% longer than people who drank a carbohydrate replacement drink and 43% longer than people who drank a fluid replacement drink. This study shows that chocolate is an effective recovery aid during workouts (Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 2009;34:78-82).

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© August 10, 2016 GreenMedInfo LLC. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of GreenMedInfo LLC. Want to learn more from GreenMedInfo? Sign up for the newsletter here

7 Reasons Eating Dark Chocolate Supports Healthy Living

Dark chocolate
Amy Goodrich
July 20, 2016

Chocolate has been a long-time favorite of children and adults alike to satisfy a sweet tooth or cure a broken heart.

In the early day’s chocolate was seen as a mood-enhancing aphrodisiac and symbol of luxury and power only available to the wealthiest of people. Once touted as the “food of Gods” for its myriad of health benefits, this popular comfort food received some bad press due to its high fat content.

Despite the wealth of positive coverage, chocolate has long been suspected of worsening acne and increasing the risk for a host of lifestyle illnesses such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.

However, not all chocolate is created equally. The sugar and milk infused chocolate most Americans consume today will not be of much help when it comes to improving your health and happiness.

Dark chocolate, with at least 70 percent cocoa, on the other hand, has been scientifically proven to keep your brain sharp, your heart in perfect condition, and your skin shielded from UV-induced damage.

Here are seven science-backed reasons why you should indulge in this bitter and sweet treat more often.

1. Packed with beneficial nutrients

Dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage is a good source of healthy fats, fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, among many other beneficial plant nutrients. Though, moderation is key as all these nutrients come with a lot of calories and moderate amounts of sugar too.

2. Antioxidant powerhouse

Cocoa houses an impressive amount of powerful antioxidants such as polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins. In the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) chart, raw cocoa is at the top of the antioxidant list, among other superfoods such as blueberries, goji berries, and pomegranate seeds.

The ORAC scale was developed to measure the effectiveness of antioxidants to neutralize free radicals that may cause damage to DNA, cells, and tissues.

3. Reduce blood pressure naturally

A 2012 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that moderate consumption of dark chocolate or raw cocoa powder reduced blood pressure and improved insulin levels and blood flow.

4. Improve cholesterol levels

If you are struggling with elevated cholesterol levels, dark chocolate may become your new best friend. Regular consumption has shown to significantly decrease oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol while improving HDL (good) cholesterol.

5 May Lower cardiovascular disease risk

High blood pressure, elevated LDL cholesterol, and insulin levels have been linked to cardiovascular diseases. As mentioned above, dark chocolate has a positive effect on all three, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases or death.

One study found that people who ate chocolate five times or more a week had a 57 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular issues. However, this number is to be taken with a grain of salt as it is based on observational studies and other factors may be at play.

6. Chocolate as a natural sunscreen

Flavanols in dark chocolate may protect against UV-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin, and increase skin density and hydration.

7. Boost brain health

Lastly, dark chocolate may also boost brain power. It improves blood flow to the brain and has shown to improve memory in elderly people with mental impairment. Cocoa contains caffeine-like substances known to boost short-term brain function.

While the evidence that raw cocoa or dark chocolate can significantly improve your health is definitely out there, remember, that doesn’t give you carte blanche to load up on this sweet, bitter treat.

Keep consumption down to a square or two a day and make sure to buy high-quality and organic dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa. The more cocoa, the better as that is where all the amazing benefits are coming from.

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Documentary Explores Link Between Mood and Diet

Dr. Mercola
January 9, 2016

The connection between your food and your mood has been the focus of occasional scientific inquiry over the past couple of decades.

Your diet can have a pronounced biochemical effect on your mental health, but the reverse is also true—your emotional state can influence the foods you choose, as well as being a major force behind food cravings.

Dr. Brian Wansink1 of Cornell University, author of more than 200 articles and books about the psychology of eating, is featured in the PBS documentary “Food on the Brain.”

This program explores the psychology of eating and provides tips and tricks for making better food choices when faced with the overwhelming number of products in supermarkets today.

Your Foods Influence Your Moods—And Vice Versa

The average supermarket now carries 43,844 different products.2 How can you even begin to make good choices when there are so many products from which to choose? Going shopping can be overwhelming.

Shoppers report that an abundance of choice can make decision-making difficult, and five percent of shoppers will simply walk away empty-handed when the scope of choices makes selection too overwhelming.3

Research has shown that an unprocessed food based diet, including fermented foods to optimize your gut flora, supports positive mood and optimal mental health.

For example, dark chocolate, berries, coffee, bananas, omega-3 fats, and turmeric (curcumin) tend to boost your mood, whereas sugar, wheat (gluten), and processed foods have been linked to poor mood.

But the influence also works in the other direction. Studies show that your emotional state may significantly control the types of foods you choose, as well as how much food you’re inclined to eat.

Could Avoiding Overeating Be as Simple as Thinking Happy Thoughts?

A series of fascinating studies4 by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab (run by Dr. Wansink) were designed to explain the mechanisms by which negative and positive moods influence your food choices.

Researchers found that individuals select healthy or “indulgent” foods depending on whether they’re in a good or a bad mood, respectively. They discovered that if you think about what you’re grateful for, you’ll eat up to 77 percent healthier.

Why would this be?

Individuals in positive moods who make healthier food choices are often thinking more about future health benefits than those in negative moods, who focus more on immediate taste and sensory experience. Researchers wrote:

“When people are in a good mood, things seem okay and they can take a big picture perspective. This kind of thinking allows people to focus on the more abstract aspects of food, including how healthy it is…

Conceptually, when people feel uncomfortable or are in a bad mood, they know something is wrong and focus on what is close in the here and now.

We hypothesized and demonstrated that this kind of thinking gets us to focus on the sensory qualities of our foods – not things that are more abstract like how nutritious the food is.”

The research team suggests that if you’re in a bad mood and you want to reduce your temptation to overeat, or not eat the wrong thing, try focusing on something other than the present. If you want to change your eating, change your thoughts—think of something you’re grateful for.

Comfort Foods May Not Be So Comforting After All

The healing power of comfort food may be overrated, if you believe the results of a recent study.5 Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that indulging in comfort food has little effect on how quickly you recover from a bad mood.

The study was funded by NASA in hopes of finding a way to improve the mood of astronauts on space missions. Astronauts tend to lose weight in space, where work demands are high and the food is generally bleak and uninspiring.

Individuals who didn’t soothe themselves with food found their moods bouncing back just as quickly as those who indulged in “comfort food.”6 Even when comfort food helped with mood, the effects were short-lived.

In a previous study,7 Dr. Wansink’s research team found that, contrary to popular belief, people tend to eat “comfort foods” as a reward, rather than in response to sadness or stress.

About 86 percent of those surveyed reported seeking out comfort foods when they were in a happy mood, as opposed to 36 percent reporting eating comfort foods when feeling down.

Tips and Strategies to Prevent Overeating

Being mindful of your eating is important, but sometimes mindfulness alone isn’t enough. Many human behaviors are driven by unconscious emotions, and eating patterns are no exception. There are ways to clear out these unconscious emotions, which I’ll be addressing shortly, but it’s also nice to have a few psychological tools to “trick” your body into eating less. Dr. Wansink discusses a few of these in the featured documentary.

Smaller Plates Equal Smaller Portions

Although calorie counting is not an effective approach to weight loss, portion control can be important, particularly if you are inactive or have a sluggish metabolism. Westerners typically consume much larger portions than they need. One way to control portions with minimal effort is by using smaller plates. This seems to work by way of an optical illusion—food portions appear larger on a smaller plate, which tricks your brain into serving and eating smaller portions.8

Plate size has been found to affect how much you eat by 25 percent! Interestingly, the same applies to glassware and utensils. If you want to reduce your intake of sweetened drinks or alcohol, use tall, thin glasses instead of short, wide ones. Similarly, using a smaller fork9 and cutting your food into smaller pieces10 seems to reduce consumption.

If you’re using larger plates, choose plates of a color that contrasts greatly with your food, but with a color similar to the tablecloth. Dr. Wansink also mentions a “half-plate” rule. He says, “It doesn’t matter what you eat as long as half your plate consists of fresh vegetables and fruits.”

I would generally agree, provided you’re not consuming junk food or processed foods. Remember also that a large portion of those vegetables are best consumed raw. Make sure to drink plenty of pure filtered or spring water every day, as sometimes thirst masquerades as hunger.

A 2010 study found that drinking two cups of water prior to meals is an effective way to reduce food intake, especially for middle-aged and older adults.11 Another scientific review concluded that drinking ice water prior to a meal, in lieu of a sweetened beverage, may result in your eating less.

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