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20 August 2004
Best Sources Of Food Antioxidants Revealed

When it comes to antioxidants, artichokes and beans rank highly, according to a new USDA study appearing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. They are among a number of foods found to contain high levels of these disease fighting compounds, which researchers say is the largest, most comprehensive analysis to date of the antioxidant content of commonly consumed foods. In addition to confirming the high antioxidant ranking of foods such as cranberries and blueberries, the researchers found that Russet potatoes, pecans and cinnamon are all excellent sources of antioxidants, which are thought to fight cancer and other diseases.

"The bottom line is the same, eat more fruits and veggies," says Ronald L. Prior, lead author of the study. "This study confirms that those foods are full of benefits, particularly those with higher levels of antioxidants. Nuts and spices are also good sources."

The researchers analyzed antioxidant levels in over 100 different foods, including fruits and vegetables. In addition, the new study includes data on spices and nuts for the first time. Among the fruits, vegetables and nuts analyzed, each food was measured for antioxidant concentration as well as antioxidant capacity per serving size. Cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries ranked highest among the fruits studied.

Beans, artichokes and Russet potatoes were tops among the vegetables. Pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts ranked highest in the nut category.

Although spices are generally consumed in small amounts, many are high in antioxidants. On the basis of antioxidant concentration, ground cloves, ground cinnamon and oregano were the highest among the spices studied.

Prior says that the data should prove useful for consumers seeking to include more antioxidants in their diet. But he cautions that total antioxidant capacity of the foods does not necessarily reflect their potential health benefit, which depends on how they are absorbed and utilized in the body. Currently, there are no government guidelines for consumers on how many antioxidants to consume and what kind of antioxidants to consume in their daily diet, as is the case with vitamins and minerals. A major barrier to such guidelines is a lack of consensus among nutrition researchers on uniform antioxidant measurements. For now, USDA officials continue to encourage consumers to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables for better health.


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