We’ve all heard that antioxidants provide numerous health benefits and in this article, I want to focus on one of them: chocolate. I have to single out chocolate because we hear so much about it in the news and because it is a pleasure-providing food: most everyone would rather indulge in a little chocolate than eat more broccoli if given the choice!

There is a lot of research out there about the benefits of chocolate and recently a large meta-analysis concluded that chocolate can reduce the risk of developing cardiometabolic disorders which can lead to coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Cardiometabolic disorders refers to a set of risk factors that include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated fasting glucose, elevated triglycerides, and abdominal obesity.

The researchers pooled the results of 7 studies which included more than 114,000 participants and found that in 5 of the 7 studies “levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders” including a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease, a 29% reduction in stroke and a reduction in c-reactive protein of 17%.

This isn’t the first time chocolate has hit the news. Researchers found five years ago that dark chcocolate acts like aspirin in reducing the clumping of platelets which cause blood to clot. If the clot is formed because the platelets clump and it blocks a blood vessel, it can mean a fatal heart attack.

Three years ago researchers working with diabetic patients found that upon giving them a special high-flavanol cocoa drink for a month they brought their blood vessel function from severely impaired back to normal. The improvement was comparable to what is seen upon introduction of exercise and many diabetes medications.

And recently, researchers found that a flavanoid in dark chocolate known as epicatechin can increase cellular signals that shield nerve cells from damage and can protect the brain after a stroke, Strokes are similar to heart attacks in that the blood supply is blocked, but in a stroke, that occurs in your brain instead of your heart. The problem is that when the brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients, cells begin to die within minutes.

These anti-oxidant epicatechins (also found in red wine, tea and certain fruits and vegetables) stimulate two nerve pathways known to shield nerve cells in your brain from damage. So when animals were fed epicatechins an hour and a half before a stroke, it was like their brain was on ‘stand-by’ ready to protect itself because the pathways were activated and so less brain damage occurred.

So what’s not to like! Here’s the key though: it’s all about the kind of chocolate and how much you consume. You’ve probably heard that all the benefits occur with darker chocolate and that is true. Milk chocolate not only affords no benefits, it contains milk and excess sugar which cancels out the antioxidant effect.

Stick with unsweetened baking chocolate and dark chocolate with greater than 70% cacao. Yes, it’s more bitter, but that’s why it has the benefits; it hasn’t been processed. Also read the label to avoid unnecessary fillers when possible.

The other key is that this does not give you free reign to eat chocolate all day! One study showed that the ideal amount for protection against inflammation and cardiovascular disease was just under 7 grams a day. That amounts to just less than a half a bar a week. Eating more than that cancelled out the benefits. So we’re talking a bite or two a day, not a bar or two!

But knowing that a couple bites a day of a powerful antioxidant can have such a big impact, perhaps that will inspire you to consume more of other known antioxidants as well. Either way, if you are looking for something sweet to end your day, you can’t go wrong with a piece or two of dark chocolate. Enjoy!

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at www.IngerPols.com

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


I often hear diabetes described as a consequence of obesity or eating fast food and drinking too much soda. While it is true that bring overweight and drinking soda or eating junk food definitely increases the likelihood of blood sugar concerns, (just one can of soda a day has been shown to increase the risk of diabetes by 22%), it’s a myth that this condition affects only overweight fast-food eaters.

Many of the people I know who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or its precursor, insulin resistance, are healthy and are not overweight. I see diabetes diagnoses more and more among active men and women who don’t fit the stereotypical profile at all. (For two famous examples, think Halle Berry and Tom Hanks.) That’s because many of us are making some basic dietary mistakes in our quest to be healthy. The good news is that these mistakes can be corrected and type 2 diabetes can be reversed or avoided with some simple dietary changes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes, officially known as diabetes mellitus, is actually a group of metabolic disorders that results from high blood glucose (blood sugar). There are three types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes occurs when an individual is born without the ability to produce insulin and so they must take insulin injections; type 2 diabetes affects 90% of those diagnosed with diabetes and will be the focus of this article; and gestational diabetes, which affects some women during pregnancy.

A metabolic disorder is one in which the way our body uses digested food for growth and for energy is impaired. We break down all of our food into smaller components that can be more readily utilized by the body. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which our cells need for energy and growth: it’s our principal source of fuel.

Our cells, however, cannot use glucose without the presence of the hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. After we eat, the pancreas releases enough insulin to allow for the glucose in our blood to move into our waiting cells. Type 2 diabetes occurs when there is not enough insulin produced or when the cells do not respond to the insulin, also known as insulin resistance.

Too much glucose floating around the blood can cause damage to the vessels that supply blood to our organs. That’s why diabetes can result in heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and nerve and vision problems.  While eventually the excess glucose is passed out of the body through our urine, the cells that require it for their growth and energy never took it in.

Many people have high blood glucose and have not been diagnosed. They may be in a state known as pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Pre-diabetes is also called impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance. Many people with pre-diabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years. In addition, they are at greater risk for heart disease and stroke as damage to the heart begins to occur even in the very early stages of blood glucose elevation.

Blood glucose measurements fall on a range that runs from insulin sensitivity to insulin resistance to an official diagnosis of diabetes. Often these numbers creep up slowly over time so that before diabetes is officially confirmed, many years of blood sugar increases have been observed. That’s why many doctors say that when your blood sugar numbers are increasing, even by very small amounts over the years, it’s a cause for concern.

Traditionally, normal glucose was said to fall in the range of 70-99 mg/dL. Glucose between 100-125 mg/dL was considered to be impaired and glucose levels of 126 mg/dL and above were diagnosed as diabetes.  However, more physicians are now suggesting that normal glucose is actually under 80, that levels between 80 and 100 indicate pre-diabetes or insulin sensitivity, and levels between 100 and 125 indicate insulin resistance.

If you are overeating sugary foods, your body may not be able to handle all of the glucose you take in at a meal. (When I say sugary, I mean foods that are readily broken down into sugars, such as simple carbohydrates. This is what is measured on the glycemic index, or GI scale). If that’s the case, you know your first line of attack is portion size and food quality to ensure that you are eating healthy fats, protein and complex carbohydrates (fiber-rich foods) at every meal to prevent a huge overload of sugar in your blood all at once after you eat.

Even if your meal portions are not excessive, what you are eating — and when you are eating it — can also lead to glucose overloads that over time can impair your blood sugar levels. So let’s examine a few of the reasons diabetes is creeping into the “seemingly” healthy eater’s world.

Food Combining

The first clue to healthy eating lies in the food combinations I just mentioned. The reason foods like rice and potatoes (and yes, even pasta which surprisingly is not the bad guy it’s been made out to be because it is actually high in protein so its slows the sugar absorption) have been a part of a healthy diet for a long time is that they were eaten in small quantities along with protein, healthy fat and fiber.

If you go to Italy, you don’t typically get pasta for a main dish: it’s a prima or first dish served in a small portion and the second dish or segunda is usually meat or fish. Both would be served with lots of vegetables, on the side or in the sauce. Because pasta has high protein levels, reasonable portions, especially with vegetable sauces are actually a good food choice, especially for meat-free dining.

In Ireland, Shepard’s Pie combined potatoes with a little inexpensive meat and vegetables. In Asia, rice and noodle bowls had lot of vegetables with some fish or chicken or tofu (more on tofu coming soon: it’s not a healthy protein option the way we get it here in the unfermented form. But in the fermented form, it’s a nutritional powerhouse.)

Traditional meals in every culture were created combining proteins (fish, game, insects, or whatever was available) with whatever they had for vegetables (fresh grown in summer, dried or preserved in winter) along with healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, butter or ghee, lard, or nuts and seeds.

Fiber rich foods like vegetables, legumes and true whole grains help prevent overeating because they require more chewing and they slow the eating process down so that your brain has time to signal you that you’re full.  Fiber also been shown to help prevent blood sugar spiking by slowing down its absorption.

Protein helps you feel fuller by slowing the time it takes food to move from your stomach to your intestines. Protein helps build muscle mass, which burns more calories. Your body also burns more calories digesting and metabolizing protein than most other foods and best of all, it has been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels when it’s eaten with sugary foods or simple carbohydrates.

Healthy fats not only make you feel full but they are required to metabolize our fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D and E. In addition, studies have shown that inclusion of healthy fats like olive oil, avocados and coconut oil lowered blood glucose levels significantly.

It’s clear why combining these foods, especially when eating simple carbohydrates as well, works on two levels: first by slowing down the eating process, enabling your body to feel fuller and to receive the signal of satiety so you’ll eat less and then by working directly on the blood glucose levels to minimizing spiking overloads and regulate your blood sugar absorption.

Why Breakfast Matters

The right combination of foods goes a long way toward eliminating blood sugar concerns and can be even more important at key times of the day such as any time your stomach is empty, especially first thing in the morning.  The typical breakfast of donuts, pancakes, muffins, French toast, bread, and yes, even seemingly healthy grain cereal, converts to sugar very quickly. Protein and fiber such as a veggie omelet, or eggs of any kind with whatever veggies and/or lean meat/fish you might have on the side, makes for a better choice. Other good options are steel cut oats or quinoa as a breakfast cereal.

When I ask people about their eating habits, I’m always surprised by the number of “healthy” eaters who tell me they have a bowl of fruit for breakfast. While many of us do need to eat more fruit, (though most of need to increase our vegetables more than fruits), and while whole fruit does have fiber, waking up to a big bowl of fruit/sugar first thing in the morning can start the day down a challenging path and lead to blood sugar spikes and glucose concerns over time.

I’m not saying don’t eat fruit: obviously it adds a lot more nutritional value than a candy bar! But if you have heard about the dangers of donuts or sugary cereal in the am, a bowl of fruit can have a similar impact. If you love your fruit, make sure you are eating plenty of fiber, protein and healthy fat along with it. (Think quinoa or Greek yogurt, and nuts or butter along with it). Also consider spacing it out throughout the day rather than eating it on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.

That leads to a specific call out to those who drink smoothies or shakes or big glasses of juice for breakfast. The same concerns about sugar and fruit are present when they are consumed in liquid form. Because liquids don’t require chewing (and obviously don’t contain solids), they move through the body quickly and don’t stay with you as long.

If you must drink juice, try carrot juice or tomato juice (in a glass bottle, not canned juice or bloody mary mix) and definitely no more than 6 ounces; that’s the size of those little juice glasses your mom or grandma used to have. If you can’t live without your liquid breakfast smoothie or shake, again, make sure there is adequate protein such as a raw milk protein powder as well as fiber and healthy fat included and even then, consider eating something solid first.

A recent study in the journal Appetite revealed that those who drank sugary drinks (including juices, shakes and smoothies) in the morning were hungrier later than those who didn’t. Not a surprise since we just talked about how liquid sugar moves through you quickly. But the study showed that the morning sugar drinkers were still hungrier than the non-drinkers several hours AFTER lunch! They ended up eating more calories throughout the rest of the day than those who did not eat or drink something sugary in the morning.

One Sugar To Avoid

The last hidden glucose threat is one we’ve heard a lot about recently: high fructose corn syrup. If you’ve read the special report available on my website, you know why fructose is more concerning than glucose. (If you haven’t read it yet, it’s free and you can get it at www.ingerpols.com).

We all need to limit our fructose consumption for many reasons. The most important for the purpose of this article is that fructose interferes with the hormone leptin’s signaling, which tells our brains that we are full. Over time, consuming high fructose corn syrup can lead to the leptin signaling becoming disrupted so we begin to eat more and more; we do not get the message to stop because we are full. High fructose corn syrup has been directly connected to type 2 diabetes. It is also metabolized in the liver, like a toxin, so eating too much also places a burden on our immune system that can have other health impacts.

Many people tell me that they don’t eat high fructose corn syrup, but when I look in their kitchens, I see it in so many products. It’s in salad dressings, crackers, cookies, bread, ketchup, tomato sauce, cocktail sauce, barbeque sauce, yogurt, and even jars of pickles! It’s everywhere in the processed food world, so if you’re not eating wholly organic and you consume packaged foods, you really have to read the label and look for it.

I know what you’re thinking: do I really need to do that and is a little bit really that bad? It takes about 10 seconds to look at the label before you buy and scan for high fructose corn syrup and it can save your life, as high fructose corn syrup is not only tied to diabetes, but it’s connected to cancer and heart disease as well.

If you eat out, you can bet it is in many of the dishes you are served or the food items you purchase because it is much cheaper to make and serve them and they last longer using high fructose corn syrup, which is why it came into our food supply to begin with.

Avoiding these common mistakes can help to keep your blood sugar levels under control and keep diabetes and insulin resistance at bay.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at www.nehealthadvisory.com

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


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