by Marion Nestle
Nov 19 2007

The (silly) battle of the antioxidants

Which fruit has the most antioxidants? The latest report says blueberries, followed by cranberries, apples, red grapes, and finally green grapes. What? Pomegranates don’t even make the top five? In this case, who knows? The investigators were testing a new assay method and those were the only fruits they examined. Never mind. It doesn’t matter. A fundamental principle of nutrition is variety. In this case, variety means that it’s good to eat different kinds of fruits and vegetables. Each contains its own unique complement of antioxidants and other nutrients and if you eat a variety of foods, you are likely to get all the ones you need and not overdo on any.

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  • Anton

    I am curious. Is there any evidence that the body actually commandeers these plant-based antioxidants and actually uses them to neutralize free radicals?

    I’m aware that glutathione is considered the primary antioxidant in mammalian systems. But it is generated internally and not eaten.

  • Anton

    I’m also curious as to why many fruits seem to contain such high percentages of anti-oxidants. Is it because plants tend to generate so much oxidation and free-radical formation? Why do plants NEED so many anti-oxidants in the first place?

  • Erin

    Glutathione peroxidase is one of the major enzyme systems that has antioxidant functions. Vitamins that we get from food, on the other hand, work as antioxidants nonenzymatically. Basically, there are a number of ways that radicals are oxidized.

    Also, there are definitely a lot of antioxidants in fruits (from the Vitamin C and lycopene), but I know that Vitamin E also has antioxidant effects. You can get vitamin E from vegetable oils like sunflower, canola, and olive.

  • Many, if not most plants, are exposed to a lot of UV radiation. That’s one possible need for anti-oxidents.

    I always wonder about the defensive chemicals (to prevent being consumed) in plants and how they affect us. Clearly some plants are to toxic to consume by animals (including humans) but what about low levels of toxin in plants? particularly over time? Probably during the past 5-12 thousand years of human intervention from agriculture and selective breeding, those chemicals have beed reduced and bred out by now.

  • I agree variety is the key. Stress, pollution, and many other factors can deplete our body’s internal antioxidants like glutathione. Taking antioxidants from a variety of fruits and vegetables or even supplements can really help.

  • I, too, agree that variety, way to go, for phytochemical benefit. Recent study provides evidence that the so-called anti-oxidants (misnomer, because they have other biochemical/physiological effects in addition to anti-oxidation), when administered in combination, have beneficial effects not seen by any of the individual phytochemical compounds. — a synergistic effect. See: and references therein. Incidentally, I have no financial or other vested interest in the particular ‘anti-oxidant’ product used in the study.

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