Food Showdown: Which Berry is Higher in Antioxidants?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By now, you've probably heard about antioxidants, the wonder molecules that may help prevent cancer and other chronic diseases. In recent years, many exotic, antioxidant-rich foods like goji berries, mangosteen, and acai have cropped up in the media and have sparked a lot of conversation. However, there hasn't been significant research to back up the hype for these foods, and it's easy for advertisers to make false claims and charge an exorbitant amount of money for them.

Instead of shelling out mega bucks for these crazy fruits and supplements, why not stick to what you know? After all, you can find an abundance of antioxidant-rich foods right in the produce section of your grocery store—without the sky-high prices or unfounded claims.

We know that berries are good for you, but are some better than others when it comes to antioxidant content? If you had to choose between common blueberries and blackberries, both touted as vitamin-rich cancer-fighters, which one would you guess has the highest antioxidant content?

The Winner: Inconclusive!

In 2004, the USDA published a list of Top 20 Antioxidant-Rich Foods. According to that list, cultivated blueberries came in fifth place (wild blueberries came in second place) and blackberries weighed in as the eighth best choice. Other items that made the list included small red beans (at number one), artichokes, Russet potatoes, pecans, pinto beans, black beans, and apples. However, this list was taken down; the USDA has recently issued a statement that the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scale, which was used to calculate the antioxidant capacity of foods, is not as accurate as it was once thought to be. Science is still working to understand how antioxidants react in the body, so the USDA has opted not to make a definitive list of the most antioxidant-rich foods just yet.

The bottom line? Start focusing on the big picture. Antioxidant content is just one way of measuring how healthy a food is. All whole foods contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and a slew of other components that work together to provide us with high-quality nutrition. Just because you don't eat pounds of goji berries doesn't mean you're not healthy. And even if one fruit is lower in antioxidants than another, it still has other benefits that will nourish your body. We've said it before, and we'll say it again: It's all about variety, moderation, and balance. When you load up on a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains, you're bound to consume an adequate amount of nutrients for good health, including those coveted antioxidants. Skip the marketing claims and fancy, expensive supplements and stick with the tried-and-true options from your grocery store or farmers market.

Need a spark to get you started? ''The next time you go shopping, add a few new food items to your list
 for a boost to your health and a treat for your tastebuds," says our Registered Dietitian, Becky Hand. Becky recommends choosing foods from this list for a wide variety of nutrients and flavors.

What's your take on antioxidants? Do you go out of your way to eat ''antioxidant-rich'' foods?

Related links:

Does it Really? The Truth about Acai

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Poll: The 10 Healthiest Foods You've Never Tried