Antioxidant - Fruits
Berries are the crown jewels of summer. Best of all, berries deliver super-healthy antioxidants that help fight disease. Studies showed that just one cup of berries provides all the disease-fighting antioxidants you need in a single day. A healthy diet needs a variety of nutrients from many food sources.
Antioxidants are important disease-fighting compounds. Scientists believe they help prevent and repair the stress that comes from oxidation, a natural process that occurs during normal cell function. A small percentage of cells becomes damaged during oxidation and turns into free radicals, which can start a chain reaction to harming more cells and possibly disease. Unchecked free radical activity has been linked to cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.
Cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries ranked highest among the fruits studied. Apples ran a close second, and dried fruits were also leading contenders. Peaches, mangos, and melons, while scoring lower than berries, still contain plenty of antioxidants as well as other nutrients.
Even though some fruits and vegetables have a high antioxidant content, the body does not absorb all of it. The concept is called bioavailability.
Bioavailability has to do with absorption or metabolism in the gut. What is absorbed will be impacted by the mechanical structure of different antioxidants in food, if they are tied up with fiber or if they have sugar molecules attached.
Some foods benefit from a bit of cooking. One of his studies showed that by mildly steaming blueberries, the antioxidant level was enhanced, making more antioxidants available to the body. That is why variety in your diet is important.
Wild blueberries are the winner overall. Just one cup has 13,427 total antioxidants -- vitamins A & C, plus flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) like querticin and anthocyanidin. Cultivated blueberries have 9,019 per cup and are equally vitamin-rich.
Cranberries also antioxidant powerhouses (8,983). Blackberries (7,701), raspberries (6,058), strawberries (5,938), black plums (4,873), sweet cherries (4,873), and red grapes (2,016) are also brimming with vitamins A & C and flavonoids like catechin, epicatechin, quercetin, and anthocyanidin. Tossed into a green salad, these berries add extra color, flavor, and texture. They're also very edible by the handful, with morning cereal, mixed into yogurt, spooned over waffles or pancakes, and sprinkled over ice cream.
Finally, orange-colored fruits are good sources of antioxidants as well. One naval orange has 2,540; the juice has about half that. Bite into a luscious ripe mango, and you'll get 1,653. A peach has 1,826, tangerines, 1,361, and pineapple, 1,229.
Dried versions of these fruits are smaller, but they still have plenty of antioxidants.
Some studies show that when animals are given grape products, the artery-clogging process slows down.
If you eat the fruits in their natural form, they are very low in calories, very nutritious, full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and many, many antioxidants. The whole fruit helps keep you in line calorie-wise.
Also, frozen fruits are a good way to go, adds Moore. "Make sure you buy the ones without added sugar. Frozen berries are especially good for a smoothie, where texture and appearance doesn't matter. Also, they're good over ice cream or cake, when you're dishing and serving them fairly soon out of the bag. If you wait too long after they've thawed, they're going to get fairly soggy."
More studies cite plentiful antioxidants in red wine, grape juice, grape seed, and grape skin extracts. Red wine is loaded with flavonoids like anthocyanidins and catechins. Studies show that when animals are given grape products, the artery-clogging process slows down. The same thing seems to happen with humans also.
French people have lower rates of heart attacks despite the rich cuisine they eat because they drink moderate amounts of red wine with their meals.
Many of the same flavonoids are found in black and green tea as well as dark chocolate, but the bulk of research has been on grape flavonoids. Researchers say that flavonoids may help promote heart health by preventing blood clots (which can trigger a heart attack or stroke), prevent cholesterol from damaging blood vessel walls, improve the health of arteries (making them expand and contract more easily), and stimulating the production of nitric oxide, which may prevent hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
Another antioxidant called reservatrol, found in red grapes, raspberries, and mulberries, seems to affect age-regulated genes, allowing cells to live longer and offsetting the risk of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers say that Grape juice has similar antioxidant powers. One study showed that drinking a tall glass of grape juice daily lowered LDL (also called "bad") cholesterol significantly. It also improved the blood flow in artery walls.
A number of studies show that Concord grapes and grape juice have a higher concentration of antioxidants than ordinary table grapes. In fact, one serving of grape juice has been shown to be the equivalent of taking a small aspirin every day, in terms of cardiovascular effects."