The Antioxidant Guide

Are you sitting down? Here’s some alarming news: Researchers are discovering that functions as basic as eating and breathing produce dangerous substances in our bodies called free radicals. We’ll skip the organic chemistry lesson and simply say that scientists have found that these free radicals are packed with extra oxygen that destroys cells in our bodies.

Specific age-related problems most likely linked to free radicals include vision loss, heart disease, declining mental faculties and cancer. Eating foods containing antioxidants may slow the progression of these age-related diseases.

Antioxidants reportedly slow the aging process. It is an idea not totally embraced by the medical field – yet. It is gaining momentum though. "It is clear that up to 70% of strokes and 80% of heart disease can be prevented by changes in diet and lifestyle," says Balz Frei, Ph.D., director of Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute, as reported in the April 2004 issue of Health.

Even if your doctor has yet to jump on the antioxidant bandwagon, consuming produce is part of a healthy diet. For easy ways to add wholesome, antioxidant-rich produce to your diet, check out an article on Secret Weapon Ingredients. And remember, the darker the color of the fruit or vegetable, the more antioxidants it has and the better it is for you.

The following table gives fruits and vegetables with accompanying ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity – or antioxidant) potential. You can print this table and post it to your fridge for future reference when you make your grocery list. The higher the ORAC value, the better for you the food is.

Fruits (raw)
Vegetables (raw)
Prunes (4) 1,939 Kale (1 cup) 1,186
Blueberries (½ cup) 1,740 Beets (½ cup) 571
Blackberries (½ cup) 1,466 Red bell peppers (½ cup) 533
Strawberries (½ cup) 1,170 Brussels sprouts (½ cup) 431
Raisins (¼ cup) 1,026 Yellow corn (½ cup) 420
Raspberries (½ cup) 756 Spinach (1 cup) 378
Oranges (½ cup) 675 Onions (½ cup) 360
Plums (1) 626 Broccoli florets (½ cup) 320
Red grapes (½ cup) 591 Eggplant (1 cup) 320
Cherries (½ cup) 516    

Heat destroys some antioxidant vitamins, so try going raw instead of cooking. Now, eat up.