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Which Foods Contain the Most Antioxidants?

One of the most important steps you can take to prevent heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease is to eat plenty of antioxidant-rich foods. As discussed in a previous article on free radicals, antioxidants protect your health by preventing and repairing damage caused to your cells by excessive free radicals.

Antioxidants are plentiful in plant foods, particularly those that have bright colours. As of May, 2005, the most comprehensive study of the antioxidant content of common foods that I know of was published in the June 2004 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. According to this study, the 20 most antioxidant-rich foods are as follows:

Rank Food Serving Size Antioxidant Capacity per Serving
1 Small red beans, dried 1/2 cup 13727
2 Wild blueberries 1 cup 13427
3 Red kidney beans, dried 1/2 cup 13259
4 Pinto beans 1/2 cup 11864
5 Blueberries, cultivated 1 cup 9019
6 Cranberries 1 cup 8983
7 Artichoke hearts, cooked 1 cup 7904
8 Blackberries 1 cup 7701
9 Dried prunes 1/2 cup 7291
10 Raspberries 1 cup 6058
11 Strawberries 1 cup 5938
12 Red delicious apple One 5900
13 Granny Smith apple One 5381
14 Pecans 1 ounce 5095
15 Sweet cherries 1 cup 4873
16 Black plum One 4844
17 Russet potato, cooked One 4649
18 Black beans 1/2 cup 4181
19 Plum One 4118
20 Gala apple One 3903

The highest ranked foods in four major categories are as follows:

Fruits: blueberries, cranberries, and blackberries.

Vegetables: beans, artichoke hearts, and surprisingly, russet potatoes.

Nuts: pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts.

Spices: cinnamon, oregano, and ground cloves.

Here are a few points to keep in mind when choosing antioxidant-rich foods:

  1. Because there are many different types of antioxidants that can protect your tissues from different types of damage, it is best to eat a wide range of antioxidant-rich foods.
  2. How much you benefit from the antioxidants found in the foods you eat depends on how well you breakdown and absorb these foods.
  3. One of the best ways of making sure that you are getting plenty of antioxidants in your diet is to strive to eat lots of fresh vegetables. If you just don't have the time to eat a large green salad every day, consider buying a good juicer and drinking a fresh vegetable juice on a daily basis. Another more convenient option is to use a high quality super green food product.
  4. It is best to limit the amount of sweet fruits that you eat according to your dental health and blood sugar and insulin levels. If you haven't already, please read my article on the dangers of eating too much fruit.
  5. When washing and preparing vegetables and fruits, be sure to wash non-organic varieties with extra care to help remove pesticide residues. This is especially important for vegetables and fruits that are known to be heavily contaminated with pesticides.

Raw chocolate and goji berries are two foods that are extremely rich in antioxidants but were not evaluated for the study cited above.

 
 

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top antioxidant rich foods - no Pomegranates?

Hello Dr. Kim,
I recently just read the article on the top antioxidant rich foods based of a study by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. According to this study, the 20 most antioxidant-rich foods did not include Pomegranates, which I found surprising. I then panned down further in the article and clicked on your link to the dangers of eating too much fruit -- and listed in that article was the below copy. So, my question is based on the list of food above from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, if pomegranates did not make the list, do they in fact have a high supply of antioxidants, or are they overrated?

4. Pomegranates - If you could choose only one fruit to get into your blood and provide super protection against free radical damage and chronic disease, pomegranates would be a great choice. By weight, they have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants among all fruits.

Thanks!

What about herbs?

Great list! Thanks for sharing. I posted to my Facebook profile. I did not realize beans had so many antioxidants. However, I would have loved to see an analysis of where many common herbs stand as well. I've heard that herbs can be much higher than antioxidants than many foods?

suppliment to the statement on "Culinary herbs as antioxidant"

The traditional culinary herbs like minor vegetables popular among tribes and poor households in developing countries are really rich source of antioxidants. Their role in health management of tribal population is well known which validate rich nutritional profile of traditional culinary herbs. My research findings on some of these herbs also showed that most of them are rich source of dietary nutrients. So, these can be taken as a source of antioxidants to biofortify food items for children and women of these regions.

effects of storage and cooking on the antioxidant capcity

Dear Sir.
Spices and herbs are also contain different antioxidants. Here, in my country(Ethiopia), people uses spices and herbs in their daily meal. But no scientific reseach have been reported yet on the antioxidant capacity of these products.Inaddition, when ever we consider the antioxidant activities, we have to study the storage , cooking,and pH effects(heat) on the their antioxidant capacity.

antioxidents

No tomatoes??

Anti-oxidants

I see you list several types of beans as having high levels of anti-oxidants. While this may be true, beans are also chock full of anti-nutrients. Beans are not a part of our evolutionary history and there may be a significant down side to consuming beans when it comes to health. For a more complete discussion of this topic, I recommend reading Loren Cordain's excellent book "The Paleo Answer".

Dr. Wilson

Beans and anti-nutrients

In response to William Wilson's post regarding beans and anti-nutrients,beans as well as all seed foods should be sprouted or soaked for a period of time to eliminate the enzyme inhibitors and anti-nutrients contained within them.Sprouting greatly increases nutrient availability and eliminates the need to cook or at least reduces the time of cooking.Sprouted beans are good nutrition.Sprouting of beans,grains,nuts and other seed foods makes so much sense to do-it's the only way one should consume these foods.

Beans not evil when properly prepared

I agree with the first respondant to your post. The anti-nutrient content of beans can be mitigated significantly with proper preparation. They are a staple of many societies that have thrived, so can't be written off entirely despite relatively recent introduction to the human diet. Unfortunately, Loren Cordain has become quite dogmatic about different foods as can be seen in some of his more recent posts.

The more useful analysis of antioxidant capacity of beans would be done on properly prepared beans, as the preparation method (soaking, sprouting, cooking then cooling, etc,) seems to have a big impact. Not sure if soaking out the anti-nutrients would also soak out the antioxidant capacity of beans. Then this table would be more instructive as to whether beans would have antioxidant properties and what place they should have in an anti-inflammatory nutritional program.

 

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