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October 15, 2014



Valentine’s Day has come and gone.  Did you finish that box of chocolates or are there a few pieces left over?  Should you throw them out and start the new diet?  After all, it’s time to get healthy and try to resume that old New Year’s Resolution that fell apart the third  week of January.  But didn’t you hear something about chocolate being good for you?  Or was it a specific kind of chocolate?  Let’s cover some of the recent information that has come out about chocolate and other antioxidants and their possible health benefits.


Why are antioxidants important?

Through the normal functions of your body, molecules called free radicals are produced.  In high amounts, these free radicals can cause tissue damage.  Your body tries to control this tissue damage through processes that scavenge these free radicals.  Antioxidants are substances found in our diet that aid in the balance of controlling excessive free radicals.


What are antioxidants?

There are many substances that have antioxidant properties.  However, certain ones such as specific vitamins, minerals and plant constituents have been studied more and have received more scientific and public attention. Certain vitamins such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E are considered to be antioxidants.  Additionally, minerals such as Selenium have antioxidant properties.  Plant constituents called flavinoids and carotenoids are antioxidants that have received a great deal of attention in recent years.


What foods are high in antioxidants?

Fruits and vegetables in particular are often high in antioxidants.  Coffee, tea, red wine, soy and certain oils will also often contain antioxidants.  And of course, there’s chocolate.


So chocolate really does have antioxidants?

Yes...indeed it does.  Of course, you have to consider that chocolate has sugar and cocoa butter (fat) in it as well so the old rule about “everything in moderation” applies.  Dark chocolate is greater in antioxidants than milk chocolate and of course “white chocolate” is just cocoa butter and sugar and has no antioxidants.


What kind of health benefits do antioxidants have?

There is some evidence that antioxidants may offer some degree of protection against macular degeneration, coronary artery disease, and Alzheimer's disease.  Of course, the evidence is suggestive only, not proof positive.


How much antioxidant should be in my diet?

Of course, all people are different in their dietary needs.  You should talk to your doctor about whether your diet is appropriate based on your personal medical history, family medical history and risk factors for common diseases.


Are there any health concerns with too much antioxidant?

Of course, too much of any substance can lead to health problems.  Hypervitaminosis is a real phenomenon and again, the best approach is a balanced approach.


Are there any pills I can take if I just don’t like these foods?

Since specific dosages and guidelines are still in the research phase, it is best to get one's antioxidants in the form of fresh foods rather than pills. And remember, with fruit and vegetables, whole foods are better than juices since fiber is mostly removed when fruits and vegetables are juiced.


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