Importance of Antioxidants
It has been shown that the formation of free radicals within the body is the cause of many health imbalances and diseases. One way to overcome the harmful effect of these free radicals is to have antioxidants substances, such as vitamin C, that will quench free radicals and diminish their damaging effects to cells and tissues.
One easy and healthy way to get these antioxidant substances is through food, something we already do everyday. Most fruits, vegetables, as well as certain herbs and spices are full of antioxidant compounds. Carotenes, anthocyanidins, proanthocyanidins, phenols, polyphenols, and chlorophyll are all natural occurring chemical plant compounds that have antioxidant power.
Measuring the Antioxidant Capacity of Foods
Of course not all foods, fruits, and vegetables have the same antioxidant potential or capacity. There are many methods to measure this antioxidant capacity both in vitro (lab test) and in vivo (involving living cells and/or organisms). One easy way to measure antioxidant ability is to use a simple lab test that measures the antioxidant capacity as it relates to a standard substance. The details of the test are not important here but the relativity by which food can be ranked. So taking one (1) as the standard, let’s examine some of the highest antioxidant-rich food that we have to curb free radicals.
Beans: a High Antioxidant Grain
Beans, those kidney shaped grains, are high in antioxidant compounds. Also, they are cheap and easy to get in the US and worldwide. Many countries have beans as they everyday food staple item (Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, etc). On the antioxidant test they rank high with a relative antioxidant value of more than 13000. Yes, you read right 13,000. The ones that have the most are the red kidney beans, the pinto beans, and the small red ones. You see in nature colorful food (naturally occurring) means high antioxidant capacity. White beans rank the lowest.
Blueberries: A High Antioxidant Fruit
Again, colorful means high antioxidant power. Blueberries and cranberries are one of the most antioxidant rich fruits you can find. Blueberries are rich in anthocyanidins, one of the powerful antioxidants found in nature capable of eliminating a lot of free radicals from the media. On the relative antioxidant scale they have a value of about 9000. Fresh blueberries are the best followed by frozen and, them some other such as the one in baked muffins and pancakes.
Cranberries: Another High Antiodixdant Fruit
Cranberries also have an antioxidant power of around 8900 and also have anthocyanidins but they also have proanthocyanidins, another powerful antioxidant molecule. Cranberry juices and canned cranberry sauces are a great way to get cranberries in your diet but watch for those with no sugar added since generally speaking cranberry juices and canned cranberry sauces are high in sugar content which is bad for your health.
Aronia Black Chokeberry Fruit: the Highest Antioxidant-Rich Fruit
Aronia chokeberry is a small shrub which has been discovered recently. Its small, dark purple fruit is rich in antioxidant capacity. It ranks with an impressive and incredibly high antioxidant value of more than 16000, the highest I have seen. This fruit is, again, rich in phytochemicals found primarily in the fruit’s skin. So you will have to eat it without taking of the skin. The whole fruit has to be eaten to realize its full antioxidant effect. The Aronia black chokeberry fruit is not easy to find but extracts and powders of the fruit are available in health food stores.
Other High Antioxidant Foods
Prunes, strawberries, apples, cherries, plums, and black beans are other foods from which you can get a good deal of antioxidants. Don’t forget to write them in your next shopping list.
Large-fruited black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa). K Kask - Fruit Var. J, 1987 - fao.org
Anthocyanins, Ascorbic Acid, and Radical Scavenging Activity of Rubus, Ribes, and Aronia S BENVENUTI, F PELLATI, M MELEGARI, D BERTELLI - Journal of Food Science, 2004 - Blackwell Synergy
Radical Absorbing Capacity of Phenolics in Blueberries, Cranberries, Chokeberries, and Lingonberries W Zheng, SY Wang - Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2003 –
This post is part of the series: All About Antioxidants
What are antioxidants? How do they work? What are the health benefits of including antioxidants in your diet? What foods are high in antioxidants? This article series will answer these questions and more!