Of all the so-called superfoods — the nutrient-rich foods high in antioxidants that are thought to fight the ills of aging — few receive more accolades than the berry family. From humble blueberries to their exotic cousins from distant climes, berries have muscled out other super fruits to take a firm stand front and center. Sure, orange fruits and dark leafy greens get their fair shake, but the berries seem to steal the show.
And the attention bestowed on berries is not unfounded. In study after study, the benefits of berries are lauded. Most recently, researchers revealed that women who ate more than three servings of blueberries or strawberries a week had a 34 percent lower heart attack risk than those who ate less. Researchers say the reason is that the berries, like other red and blue fruits and vegetables, have high concentrations of anthocyanin, an antioxidant that may help lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel function. Another study found that women who eat plenty of blueberries and strawberries experience slower mental decline with age than women who consume fewer of the fruits.
And what about all the other berries that are regularly slapped with the “miracle” label by food marketers and importers? Although many of the exuberant health claims have yet to be confirmed, the bulk of berries are loaded with important nutrients that can go far in combatting common deficiencies that may be making you feel less than peppy. With that in mind, here’s the who’s who of the super berry world.
1. Açai berry One of the earliest contenders in the miracle-food market, açai berries are harvested from açai palm trees native to the rain forests of South America. In the Amazon the berries are beaten into a pulp, diluted in water and eaten with manioc, meat, fish or dried shrimp. Proponents purport that this little berry can tame arthritis and cancer, help with weight loss and high cholesterol, give a boost to erectile dysfunction, aid detoxification and provide overall health exuberance. Açai berries have proven to be a good source of antioxidants, fiber and heart-healthy fats, but research has yet to prove much else. Açai can be eaten raw, in capsules, in beverages such as juice, smoothies or energy drinks, and other food products. It is often sold as a frozen pulp. Its popularity in North America has had an unintended consequence: there is less of this healthy staple for native and often poor populations who have relied on it for generations, according to Bloomberg.
2. Acerola cherry Known scientifically as Malpighia emarginata, and commonly as acerola, Barbados cherry, West Indian cherry and wild crepemyrtle, this shrub is native to South America, southern Mexico and Central America, but is now also being grown as far north as Texas and in subtropical areas of Asia. The fruit is bursting with vitamin C — about nine times the vitamin C found in a typical orange. It is most commonly available in juice, powder or supplement form.
3. Aronia Also known as black chokeberry, aronia is native to the eastern U.S. and has a long history in Eastern Europe. The aronia fruit is about the size of a large blueberry and is commonly found in wet woods and swamps. Aronia shrubs are cultivated as ornamental plants; however, there is interest in the health benefits of the fruit because of its high levels of anthocyanins and flavonoids — five to 10 times higher than cranberry juice — with beneficial nutrients such as antioxidants, polyphenols, minerals and vitamins. The fruit is inedible raw because of its astringent nature (hence the common name, chokeberry), but the berries are used to make juice as well as wine, jam, syrup, juice, spreads, tea and tinctures.
4. Blackberry Blackberries are special, beyond their basic berry goodness. Notable for their high levels of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid and manganese, they also rank well for antioxidant strength, with notable levels of polyphenolic compounds, such as ellagic acid, tannins, ellagitannins, quercetin, gallic acid, anthocyanins and cyanidins. By many accounts, blackberries are considered one of the strongest antioxidant foods consumed in the U.S.
5. Blueberry Second only to strawberries in terms of U.S. berry consumption, blueberries are not only popular, but constantly rank near the top in terms of their antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings. Studies suggest that blueberries may reduce memory decline, may reduce heart attack risk, and may provide other anti-aging benefits. They are also an excellent source of vitamins C and K, manganese and a good source of dietary fiber. One of the real beauties of blueberries is that they are native to North America and are grown commercially in 38 states, meaning fewer food miles and habitat destruction than some of their superfood sisters. Unfortunately, domestic blueberries test positive for 42 different pesticide residues in EWG’s examination of pesticide loads – so purchase organic ones when you can.
6. Cranberry Another fruit native to North America, cranberries have a long history of use for medicinal purposes, including treatments for wounds, urinary disorders, diarrhea, diabetes, stomach ailments and liver issues. There is some evidence that cranberry can help prevent urinary tract infections; however, the evidence is not definitive, and more research is needed. To that end, the National Institutes of Health is funding research on the cranberry’s effects on heart disease, yeast infections and other conditions, and other researchers are investigating its potential against cancer, stroke and viral infections. But be warned, if you plan to consume cranberries in juice form, check the nutrition panel. Many cranberry juices are juice blends; one popular brand is only 27 percent juice and one serving comes with the whopping equivalent of 12 teaspoons of sugar.
7. Goji berry Also known as lycium or Chinese wolfberries, these go-to berries for the superfood set are native to the Himalayan region of China and Tibet. The small, red berries have been used by Chinese herbalists for millennia to help eyesight, boost immune function and promote longevity. Although there are few published clinical trials, many of goji berries’ reported health benefits are related to their high antioxidant concentration. They have remarkable levels of vitamin C, beta carotene, amino acids, iron and B vitamins. Available dried, they taste kind of like a dried cherry with a slight metallic and salty tinge; they are also available is powder, juice or supplement form. They travel a long way to get to North America, though, so love them sparingly.
8. Maqui berry Maqui berry is a deep purple berry that grows wild throughout parts of southern Chile. The tart and flavorful fruit contains an abundance of vitamin C, calcium, iron and potassium, anthocyanins and polyphenols, and anti-inflammatory compounds. Long consumed in whole and juice form, maqui is now found in a number of dietary supplements (including powders, capsules and juice blends).
9. Noni berry The noni berry is the fruit of the evergreen shrub known as canary wood, which is native to tropical areas of the South Pacific. The green fruit, leaves and rhizomes were long used used in Polynesian cultures to treat menstrual cramps, bowel irregularities, diabetes, liver diseases and urinary tract infections. Noni is available in powdered pulp or juice form, but many of the nutrients are lost when the fruit is juiced. The main micronutrients of noni pulp powder include vitamin C, niacin (vitamin B3), iron and potassium, with lesser amounts of vitamin A and calcium. However, the juice only retains the vitamin C, and at levels about half as much as orange juice.
10. Raspberry The U.S. is the third-largest raspberry producer in the world, which is a good thing given our fondness for them and the health benefits they deliver. Because of their aggregate fruit structure, raspberries are among the highest fiber-containing foods, with up to 20 percent fiber per total weight. They are also a great source of vitamin C, manganese, B vitamins 1–3, folic acid, magnesium, copper and iron. As for the antioxidants, raspberries contain the all-important anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, gallic acid, cyanidins, pelargonidins, catechins, kaempferol and salicylic acid. Yellow raspberries are also grown, but they have fewer antioxidants. A compound found in raspberries, raspberry ketone, is routinely touted as a weight loss supplement, though more research is needed to determine the veracity of the claims.
11. Strawberry Although strawberries are grown in every state in the U.S., California manages to grow 75 percent of the nation’s crops – in fact, the Golden State produces more than 1 billion pounds of strawberries a year, which is surely appreciated by the 94 percent of U.S. households that consume the sweet red berries. Although strawberries aren’t exotic and don’t require long traveling distances and dwindling rain forests to thrive, they are one of the stellar powerhouses of the berry group. One serving of strawberries offers 85 milligrams of vitamin C, or 150 percent of the Daily Value. They provide fiber, manganese, folate, potassium, and like the rest of the berry family, antioxidants. Strawberries land in second place for pesticide load on EWG’s 2013 Dirty Dozen list, so purchase organic ones if you can.
Why Economics Drives Most Food Options You Have
Being overweight is not just a disease; it's a symptom of many other things that are wrong with your diet. And much of the blame for the current American diet comes down to economics.
In a $10 trillion economy, $1 trillion goes to food companies and $2.5 trillion goes to health care. Food companies, like any good businesses, are always seeking to increase the consumption of their product. But in food, there's an unwritten law of marketing called potato chip marketing equations.
That means that 10 percent of your customers buy 90 percent of the product. You may go out and buy one or two bags of potato chips a month. But somebody else is buying one bag a day -- 30 bags every month.
When you add that extra 20 percent extra to your weight, you don't increase your food consumption 20 percent a day. You double it to 200 percent a day. Your caloric intake to maintain 180 pounds is almost twice the caloric intake you need to maintain 150 pounds.
Think of that from the standpoint a food company. Food companies, as a result, market to people to make everyone part of their potato chip marketing equation. They spend their marketing dollars getting existing customers to buy more of their product.
At what point after two, three, four, 10, 12 bags of potato chips do they no longer taste good? How about McDonald's French fries? All processed foods never get tiring -- they have chemically altered the food substances in that food to make sure you're never tired of it.
The problem with obesity, which is ultimately caused by poor diet, is really an economic problem. And when people consume this terrible diet, they end up with all types of medical problems, and they go to the doctors for treatment.
But the medical companies are in effect in a conspiracy of sorts with the food companies. They've almost said to the food companies, "We'll treat the symptoms of this bad diet. We will never treat the cause, your bad food."
Sources: AdvantEdge Newsletter
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Renowned economist Paul Pilzer has done an excellent job of revealing what's going on behind the scenes when it comes to food production and marketing in the United States. I encourage you to read the entire article by clicking on the link above.
Regular newsletter readers know that I'm fond of exposing how much the drug industry spends to manipulate and distort your perceptions about health care. Well they only spend $20 billion a year. The food industry is spending TWICE that much to convince you and your kids to choose highly processed convenience foods that will accelerate a massive decline in your health (and facilitate your need to use drugs to control your symptoms).
You can watch this terrific video series by Peter Jennings to find out just how the food industry is quietly sabotaging your health. For instance, 90 percent of foods Americans purchase every year are processed foods, and in 2006, 2,800 new candies, desserts, ice cream, and snacks were introduced to the marketplace, compared to just 230 new fruits or vegetable products.
Food marketers do a masterful job at making it seem like fast foods and junk foods are the obvious choice. They're relatively inexpensive, they taste good, and they make fixing dinner a snap. No longer do you need to fuss with actually cleaning or chopping a vegetable. Simply pop their prepared boxes of food in the microwave and you're ready to go.
What the food industry neglects to tell you is that there is a heavy price for consuming this terrible diet. It is one of the major causes of a slew of chronic diseases facing the United States. So for the sake of convenience or good taste now, you are trading the most valuable asset that you have: your health.
Why do You Eat so Much Junk Food?
As I said above, 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food goes toward processed foods. This is, in large part, due to the successful marketing of agribusiness They have also cleverly designed your food shopping experience at most supermarkets to increase the sales of higher profit junk foods, instead of farmer's markets that display whole foods.
Another significant part of the food equation is that most American food crops are currently subsidized by the U.S. government: such as corn, wheat, soy and rice. Growing little else but corn and soy translates to a far higher likelihood we will eating more processed foods.
And then there are the food additives, chemicals added to the foods to make you want more. I found this to be one of the most interesting and spot-on parts of Pilzer's article. When people struggle with food cravings and overeating, it is typically because they are craving something unhealthy like potato chips, French fries, soda or candy.
I doubt if any physician or nutritionist has seen someone come in complaining about their desire to gorge themselves on spinach and asparagus. It just doesn't happen.
This is because your body will naturally crave a variety of different foods to keep you healthy. That is, if you eat unprocessed whole foods. Processed foods are typically chemically altered to increase the appeal to your taste buds, so they can override your body's signals in your body that would otherwise tell you it's time to stop eating and try something else.
These foods are pumped full of unnatural amounts of sugar, corn syrup, salt, MSG and many others, which radically increases the likelihood of becoming addicted to them.
In one study of rats fed a diet containing 25 percent sugar, they became anxious when the sugar was removed -- displaying symptoms similar to people going through drug withdrawals, such as chattering teeth and the shakes.
The researchers conducting the study found a link between opioids, your brain's 'pleasure chemicals,' and a craving for sweet, salty and fatty foods. It is thought that high-fat foods stimulate the opioids, as when researchers stimulated rats' brains with a synthetic version of the natural opioid enkephalin, the rats ate up to six times their normal intake of fat.
Further, long lasting changes in rats' brain chemistry, similar to those caused by morphine or heroin use, were also noted. According to researchers, this means that even simple exposure to pleasurable foods is enough to change gene expression, which suggests an addiction to the food.
Meanwhile, refined sugar, which is in just about every processed food out there, because it is cheap and improves the flavor of the food, has been proven to be more addictive than cocaine! Your body's sweet receptors (two protein receptors located on your tongue), which evolved in ancestral times when the diet was very low in sugar, have not adapted to modern times' high-sugar consumption.
Therefore, the abnormally high stimulation of these receptors by our sugar-rich diets generates excessive reward signals in the brain, which have the potential to override normal self-control mechanisms, and thus lead to addiction.
This is why, if you regularly eat a diet of processed foods, whole foods seem to lack flavor. You have become conditioned to think that these chemically altered foods are the norm, when in reality the opposite is true.
When you switch your diet to one focused on whole, unprocessed foods, such as the one I recommend in Take Control of Your Health, your ability to appreciate natural flavors will rapidly return. Suddenly you'll experience how delicious fresh produce can be. And a piece of fruit will taste very sweet. Once you are eating this way, if you then eat a candy bar or a potato chip, you will frequently be shocked by the excessive sweetness and saltiness.
This is Not About Self-Deprivation
Many people feel that if they can't eat their favorite junk foods, they are being deprived. In reality, the sooner you switch your eating habits, the sooner you'll enjoy increased energy, normalized weight, a better mood and improved health overall.
Knowing this, many initially succeed at implementing an improved diet, but then fall back into old habits... and therefore, the "old" body.
This is largely due to emotional barriers or injuries that were never healed. This is why to truly succeed at revamping your eating habits, and breaking free from the onslaught of marketing messages telling you otherwise, I highly recommend you work on overcoming your emotional eating challenges.
There are clearly many useful and effective strategies in this area. In my clinical practice, I have tried a variety of methods, and have been exposed to many more (both traditional and alternative) but none have come close to the success rate I have experienced with the Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT. This form of psychological acupressure can help you to reduce food cravings, remove negative emotions and implement positive goals so that you are ready to make a change.
Remember, subsisting on junk foods alone is a surefire way to accelerate your aging process and compromise your health. (To get an idea of how quickly and dramatically this happens, watch SuperSize Me.) There is just no way around it -- if you want to reap a healthy life, you and your family need to focus your diets on fresh, whole foods.
Rawfood Diet- Enzymes & Protein by Tara Bianca Tiller
Enzymes are proteins composed of amino-acids, and proteins are present in all living things. All enzymes are proteins, but not all proteins are enzymes.
When you eat, enzymes break down the food into tiny particles which can be converted into energy in the body. The breakdown of food is necessary to convert food into energy. Undigested food is unable to pass on the energy stored within it.
Digestive enzymes carry out the breakdown of the food particles so that they can be easily converted into the essential energy needed by all parts of our body. Enzymes are the only substances capable of digesting food. Without enzymes you would die from starvation.
A very important benefit of eating fresh whole foods is that they contain enzymes. These are substances that help the body digest food and are found only in living food. High temperatures kill enzymes so most processed food require a lot more effort by the liver to digest them.
So, the key element here is that enzymes must come from a living source. If our food is dead from cooking, then the protein is denatured and largely unusable.
What living sources have protein?
Avocados provide all of the essential amino acids, with 18 amino acids in all, plus 7 fatty acids, including Omega 3 and 6. Avocados contain more protein than cow's milk. A small avocado will provide more usable protein then a steak because cooked protein in meat is denatured and mostly unavailable to our liver, the organ that makes all of our body's protein.
Ripe, raw avocados furnish all the elements we need to build the highest quality protein in our bodies. Avocado is an enzymatically-alive fruit, it ranks as the most easily digested rich source of fats and proteins in whole food form. The ripening action "predigests" complex proteins into simple, easily digested amino acids.
Other than avocados, where can a person get their protein?
Out of the 22 amino aids found in the body, 8 must be derived from food. All 8 are abundantly available in raw plant food, especially greens. As suggested by David Wolfe, "green leafed veggies are the true body builders" (p186, The Sunfood Diet Success System). Examples of animals who build enormous musculature on green leafy vegetation include: gorilla, giraffe, hippo, elephant, horse. People think they need flesh protein to build flesh protein. If that were true then cows would need to eat flesh to get protein. Usable protein is the key. Cooking denatures protein molecular structure and creating free radicals, which destroy enzymes, amino acids & other cellular elements.
"There are many different kinds of protein, which can basically be split into two groups: 1. The first group covers the structural proteins, which are the main constituents of our bodies. 2. The second large group of proteins covers the biologically active proteins.
All known enzymes are proteins and can occur in the body in very small amounts. Enzymes catalyze all processes in the body, enabling organisms to build up chemical substances such as other proteins, carbohydrates or fats that are necessary for life.
Most of these catalyze biochemical reactions in cells. In short, all enzymes are proteins, but not all proteins are enzymes. If a protein can catalyze a biochemical reaction, it is an enzyme."
Enzymes and Raw Food - Can You Cheat Time and Stay Young for Longer?
I'm going to be a bit radical here, but know that I'm only encouraging you to question and think and ideally do your own research, both theory and practice. I'm pretty confident that you'll thank me for it. WHAT IF THE SO-CALLED 'AGING PROCESS' WAS A CHOICE?
Clearly, we can't stop time from moving on. When we have a birthday, we are another year older. That's a fact that, for the moment at least, we cannot change. But what if the weakening organs, bones and tissues and all the 'usual' signs of old age were not actually a part of the aging process we've come to accept as 'normal'? Have you ever considered that these conditions are simply symptoms of us mistreating our bodies over the course of our lives to date? Wouldn't our senior years be a whole lot more fun if we were pain and disease free and could jump around with the energy and vitality of a teenager?
WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
That this is a crazy, impossible idea borne out of fantasy? Or are you willing to open your mind and accept that actually, if you treat your body right and nourish it properly, it may in fact be possible? And this is where Enzymes come in...
In his book Intuitive Eating, Dr Humbart Santillo MD writes:
"A human being is not maintained by food intake alone, but rather by what is digested. Every food must be broken down by enzymes to simpler building blocks. Enzymes may be divided into 2 groups, exogenous (found in raw food) and endogenous (produced within our bodies). The more one gets of the exogenous enzymes, the less will have to be borrowed from other metabolic processes and supplied by the pancreas. The enzymes contained in raw food actually aid in the digestion of that same food when it is chewed. One can live many years on a cooked food diet, but eventually this will cause cellular enzyme exhaustion which lays the foundation for a weak immune system and ultimately disease."
Put simply, we are born with a finite supply of endogenous enzymes. It should be enough to last us a lifetime based on current life expectancy, but if we don't supply some exogenous enzymes through our diet, we will use up our original supplies and that's when we become susceptible to the accepted 'signs of old age' including premature death! And the fact is that when we cook our food, we kill all enzymes instead of allowing them to boost our immune system, our brain function and our energy levels.
Another doctor, Edward Howell, has written a book called Enzyme Nutrition. In it, he says:
"Humans eating an enzyme-less diet use up a tremendous amount of their enzyme potential in lavish secretions of the pancreas and other digestive organs. The result is a shortened lifespan (65 years or less as compared with 100 or more), illness, and lower resistance to stress of all types, psychological and environmental. By eating foods with their enzymes in tact and by supplementing cooked foods with enzyme capsules we can stop abnormal and pathological aging processes."
THESE SCIENTISTS ARE NOT CRACK-POTS WORKING ALONE
The raw food movement is gathering pace and the practice is becoming more mainstream now. In her book You Are What You Eat, Gillian McKeith places raw or living foods at the top of her list of Good Foods and has a section entitled The Case Against Cooking. Now don't get me wrong; I'm not suggesting that you switch overnight to a 100% raw food diet. Though plenty do and never look back, it's not always wise. Instead I would give the same advice as Gillian in urging you to eat something raw with every meal.
Just before I sat down to write this, I ate a yummy Quinoa Avocado Salad which other than the cooked quinoa was loaded with raw, enzyme-, EFA- and nutrient- rich foods. I ate it on its own, but you could serve it alongside a piece of grilled chicken or fish instead of dead, heavy, sugar-rush potatoes which do little more than bloat you up.
So you thought you knew everything about chocolate... wait till you read this...
Examining the Properties of Chocolate and Cacao for Health by Teya Skae
Are you one of the rare individuals on this planet who does not like nor ever craves chocolate at some point in your life? But, if you are like most of the Western world, have you ever wondered why chocolate can be so addictive, apart from its rich sweet lingering taste? Well, it has to do with your brain chemistry and brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters.
What are neurotransmitters? They act like messengers or little power-brokers that run around in our brain telling the body what to do. They orchestrate our moods, influence our thought patterns, and affect our energy levels, states of alertness, concentration and drowsiness.
So what does chocolate and neurotransmitters have in common? Chocolate affects the brain by causing the release of certain neurotransmitters which can trigger emotions, one of which is euphoria; maybe that's why it is so desirable?
The health-benefits of chocolate have been known to us for some time now, but there is more to chocolate that we need to know. For instance, did you know that chocolate and cacao are not the same? True, there is a clear distinction between commercial chocolate which has no health benefits and organic dark chocolate, ideally with no added sugar. Yet if you're a chocolate lover, consider small amounts of raw cacao as a better option.
The reason why raw cacao is the best choice for healthy benefits is because raw cacao contains the very popular antioxidants (anti-aging guys) that make raw cacao a superfood. But there is more to know than just this.
Let's have a look at raw cacao:
Cacao is derived from Theobroma Cacao beans, which literally means "Food of the Gods". Cacao contains over 300 compounds including: protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, iron, zinc, copper, calcium and magnesium. Magnesium helps to build strong bones and is a muscle relaxant associated with feelings of calmness. Cacao is also high in sulfur, which helps form strong nails and hair.
In addition, cacao also contains the chemicals phenylethylamine (PEA) and anandamide. PEA is an adrenal-related chemical that we create naturally when we're excited. It also plays a role in feeling focused and alert because it causes your pulse rate to quicken, resulting in a similar feeling to when we are excited or fall in love!
Another 'bliss' chemical found in chocolate is the lipid anandamide. It's there in our brain when we feel great. Anandamide is also called "chocolate amphetamine" as it causes changes in blood pressure and blood-sugar levels, leading to feelings of excitement and alertness.
Anandamide works like amphetamines to increase mood and decrease depression, but it is not addictive like caffeine or illegal with undesirable side-effects like amphetamines. Anandamide is quite unique in its resemblance to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a chemical found in marijuana.
The good news is that even though the anandamide in chocolate helps to create feelings of elation, the effect is not the same as the THC in marijuana. It would take approximately twenty five pounds of chocolate to achieve a 'high' similar to marijuana and the nausea would overpower any feelings of bliss at all.
Are there any controversial compounds in Cacao?
Yes, out of 300 plus compounds found in raw cacao there are at least two:
Lets look at the most controversial – theobromine. Theobromine makes up between 1-2% of the cacao bean and it stimulates the central nervous system and dilates blood vessels. Theobromine has about 1/4 of the stimulating power of its sister molecule caffeine.
Theobromine is a mild diuretic (increases urination) and has been used as a medical drug to treat heart attacks that have resulted from an excessive accumulation of body fluid.
It's interesting to note that dogs should not eat cacao or chocolate because they lack the necessary enzymes to metabolize theobromine in excess of 100-150 mg per kilogram of the dog's body weight. If dogs eat this much cacao it can cause cardiac arrest.
Probably the most controversial of theobromine effects is that it can cause some people to feel hyper and then lethargic, in a very similar way to caffeine. Also, theobromine can cause headaches in some individuals. There has been some debate as to whether or not caffeine really exists in chocolate. Some scientists believe that it is the theobromine which is solely responsible for its caffeine-like effects.
Caffeine and Cacao:
- According to the Chocolate Information Center, sponsored by Mars Inc., a 50-gram piece of dark chocolate (about the size of your average chocolate bar) will yield between 10 and 60 milligrams of caffeine, while an average 150 ml cup of coffee can yield up to 175 milligrams.
- 40 grams of dark chocolate contains the same amount of caffeine as one cup of decaffeinated coffee, and yet it will stimulate sensitive individuals.
- A cup of hot chocolate usually contains about 4 or 5 milligrams of caffeine, which is about 1/20 that of a cup of regular coffee.
So what is the story with Oxalic Acid found in cacao?
Although both cacao and chocolate are rich in calcium, they contain oxalic acid as one of their 300 plus compounds. Oxalic acid interferes with the body's absorption of calcium. Not only does oxalic acid prevent cacao products from being good sources of calcium but oxalic acid also interferes with calcium absorption. If you are consuming traditional chocolate with sugar then calcium loss is even greater as sugar excretes calcium reserves from our body even more so than oxalic acid.
Other foods that contain moderate amounts of oxalic acid are rhubarb stalks, star fruit, black pepper, parsley, poppy seed, amaranth, spinach, chard, beets, most nuts and beans.
Is Cacao the best antioxidant on the market?
That all depends on what kind of cacao, where it is grown and how it has been treated. If it is certified as Organic Raw Cacao then it is an excellent source of antioxidants and if it is not then you are consuming a whole lot of chemicals from irradiation and spraying of chemicals which are standard practice in growing cacao beans.
In the ORAC chart raw cocoa powder is at the top of the antioxidant list with almost four times the amount of antioxidants as Goji Berries.
The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture to measure the effectiveness of antioxidants to absorb free radicals that cause cell and tissue damage. The higher the ORAC score, the higher the level of antioxidants present in the food.
Even though cacao is much higher in antioxidants than goji berries, it does not mean that it is better. Why? Because consuming 100 grams of goji berries is quite beneficial whereas consuming 100 grams of raw cacao is too much in one day in one go, and the benefits would turn into side-effects. Cacao is simply very powerful on your central nervous system and with this much cacao, the content of oxalic acid would interfere with calcium retention. Yet, consuming 40 grams of raw cacao at the most or a 50 gram organic, dark, sugar-free chocolate is beneficial and quite enjoyable.
ORAC scores for the Top 10 Antioxidants Foods (per 100 grams)
Source: US department of Agriculture/Journal of American Chemical Society
Finally, choosing raw organic cacao powder and having approximately 40 grams at most, equivalent to 4–6 heaped teaspoons, throughout the day is ok. Replacing your morning coffee with a raw cacao drink would be a much healthier alternative as it is loaded with antioxidants and bliss chemicals. An ideal and healthy way of having hot cacao is with some organic coconut milk and stevia with some cinnamon added on top, a recipe for a "pick me up and feel good" without the hype and jitters.
Please bear in mind that having too much cacao in one go can overstimulate your central nervous system, as well as your heart and your brain. This can cause you to feel quite hyper and then drowsy at some point after. That is the side-effects of having too much. Be aware that cacao nibs are quite potent and having 4-5 is probably enough, having a handful is overdoing it.
If you love chocolate as most of us do, pick a dark organic variety with no added sugar. Raw cacao might just perk up your mornings and elevate your moods in times when you want to stay productive.