Data from epidemiological studies has shown conclusively that regular consumption of plant-based foods and beverages high in antioxidants can lead to a reduction of risk for stroke and coronary heart disease. One of the many beneficial plant-derived foods, which may surprise some, is cocoa, which experts confirm as being an important mediator for stroke and heart disease.
Study after study has proved the beneficial effects of cocoa for people who are experiencing insulin resistance, high blood pressure and problems with platelet and vascular functions.
Health Benefits of Cocoa-Rich Chocolates
Early evidence of the health benefits of cocoa was seen among Kuna Indians. This group of native people lives on one of the islands off the coast of Panama. The Kuna population was found to be a culture protected from the risks associated with age-dependent increase in blood pressure.
This group of people was also free from any signs of arterial hypertension. When clinical studies were conducted, experts found that the ability of the Kuna population to ward off diseases common to the aging population in other cultures can be greatly attributed to their regular consumption of cocoa.
Their habit of drinking cocoa beverage on a daily basis has almost completely spared them from having high blood pressure and from experiencing any decline in their kidney function. Death rate resulting from cardiovascular events is significantly lower than cardiovascular mortality rate of other Pan-American citizens, including those in nearby Panama City.
Experts believe that the mortality rate in other Pan-American cultures is due mainly to environmental factors rather than genetic. Many Kuna natives who have migrated to urban Panama City have ceased to stick to their habit of drinking home prepared cocoa beverage and replaced it with other beverages that have lower or no flavanol content at all. These people were found to have cardiovascular disease rates on par with other Panama City residents, not Kuna villagers.
Why Dark Chocolate is Better than Milk Chocolate
In a study which showed that consumption of dark chocolate can help improve antioxidant levels in the body, the same effect was not observed among groups of people who consumed milk chocolate. In addition, researchers ascertained that consuming milk chocolate while dark chocolate is being consumed will deplete the antioxidant benefits of dark chocolate.
A group of researchers from Scotland confirmed that the amount of flavonoids found in dark chocolates is double the antioxidant content of milk chocolate.
For the sake of your health, it is important to understand why dark chocolate is different to other chocolate. Simply put, the best way to get maximum benefit from the antioxidant properties of cocoa is to eat the unprocessed bean. Pound for pound, it is a true antioxidant powerhouse.
However, the active ingredients that are beneficial to health also make the bean quite bitter. When it is processed into chocolate, many of these are removed to make it more palatable. Also, much milk and sugar is added to make tasty, but unhealthy, milk chocolate. Beneficial dark chocolate contains at least 70 per cent cocoa, in some white chocolates it is a minor ingredient.
When buying, remember that the darker the chocolate, the better, as darker chocolates contain greater amount of flavonoids. Steer clear of chocolates that only contain cocoa fat, flavorings and sugar which are more often found in white chocolate.
You should also avoid those chocolate products that contain nougat or caramel fillings because these are loaded with fat and sugar which cancels out the benefits of eating dark chocolate. Most of all, even though their antioxidant properties are deemed healthy it is important to keep in mind that even dark chocolate consumption must be done in moderation.
Strawberries for Anti Aging
Strawberries and many other fruits and vegetables contain fisetin, which is a flavonoid compound. This compound found in strawberries is what makes strawberries so beneficial for anti-aging. Apples, persimmon, grapes, mangoes, cucumber skin and other fruits and vegetables also contain fisetin, but in lesser amounts.
Fisetin Holds Great Promise
If you have never heard of fisetin that may change very soon, as research is showing that it is useful in boosting the immune system which helps prevent many age-related diseases. Researchers are excited by the results of studies on humans and other mammals of fisetin as a preventative and remedial antioxidant.
Great promise has been shown in areas such as overcoming cognitive decline and halting cancer.
Strawberries Are an Antioxidant
Strawberries are also known as being a delicious antioxidant. However, another striking finding about fisetin, as found in strawberries, is that it can boost the levels of glutathione in the brain’s pathways and causing the reduction of one of the most damaging free radicals known as peroxynitrite.
There is increasing evidence from scientific research to show that the regular consumption of strawberries, cucumbers and other vegetables and fruits containing fisetin, can significantly help prevent plaque formation in the brain and help ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Fisetin compounds have also been found to be helpful in defending against cancer cell growth and diabetes. The fisetin helps reduce inflammation, which allows our immune system to have a better chance at destroying cancer cells while still in the early stages.
Study findings of Chinese scientists were also published in the International Journal of Oncology which revealed that fisetin can be instrumental in promoting natural death of malignant breast cancer cells.
Memory and Your Brain
The neuro-protective effects of fisetin have also been published in the journal titled Neuroscience Letters. There it was stated that fisetin is beneficial for maintaining normal memory processes while the tendency of plaque buildup in the brain’s pathways was lessened.
Scientists determined that fisetin can be helpful for protecting the nerve cells from any possible damage that may occur during a stroke. These are just few of the many scientific findings that have shown that fisetin may serve as a powerful weapon against age-related illnesses and premature aging.
How Much Do We Need?
As fisetin occurs in relatively tiny amounts in fruits and vegetables most of this research used supplements and not fresh produce. By comparison, strawberries contain one of the highest amounts by weight of commonly available fruits and vegetables; a medium strawberry contains about 2 mg of fisetin. Based on amounts used in animal studies, some people are recommending daily intakes of between 50 and 150 mg. That works out to 25 strawberries per day.
However, it is very likely that these levels were used as remedial doses – killing cancer cells. The rates needed for preventative antioxidant activity would be much lower. It is also worth noting that in generalized studies on antioxidants, fresh fruit and vegetables were far more effective than synthesized supplements.
So, for a person interested in optimizing their health and remaining as youthful and vital as they can, including a serving of strawberries or one of the other fruits and vegetables mentioned will certainly contribute some fisetin into your antioxidant armory. Remember that no one antioxidant is a silver bullet – to fight the good fight against aging and decay you need to obtain a range of antioxidants from a wide variety of fresh foods.
Just remember that processed and canned fruits do not contain the same health benefits. Fresh is always best so always opt for the ‘real foods’, not the sliced, sugar-laden fruits packaged in jars or cans. And don’t forget for that special treat and to boost your antioxidant levels even higher to dip strawberries first in melted dark chocolate containing at least 70% cacao.
Antioxidants help fight free radical formation and knowing that fisetin is beneficial too, can be reason enough to eat more dark chocolate dipped strawberries, cucumbers (with the skin on), blueberries, mangoes and apples to help avoid memory and cognitive decline in old age.