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Adding Anti-oxidants to the Diet

Anti-oxidants have been labelled as the magic bullet for a large range of diseases including various types of cancers and cardiovascular disease. Antioxidants occur naturally in our bodies, or are obtained from certain foods; their primary function is to eliminate the damaging effects of free radicals that are in our bodies. The amount of antioxidants in our bodies together with those we get through our diet are usually enough to counteract the harmful effects of these free radicals. However, in cases where the body is overwhelmed, such as during times of stress, or when we are exposed to pollutants and toxins, this may not be enough.


We should get as many sources of anti-oxidants in our diet as possible. One way would be to take supplements that contain vitamin A, vitamin E or vitamin C or selenium. These very potent antioxidants are commonly found in many supplements. For those who seek a more natural way, increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables is always an option. It's estimated that there are more than 4,000 compounds in foods that act as antioxidants, so there is plenty of choice. In addition, when you consume fruits and vegetables you are getting much more than just the antioxidants that you are looking for.

Below is a list of fruits and vegetables and their anti-oxidation power as measured by a test called the Aoxygen radical absorbence capacity@ or ORAC. The higher the ORAC value the higher the anti-oxidant power of the food.

Regularly adding some of these sources of antioxidants to your diet would be a good idea.

ORAC units for fruit and vegetables
Prunes: 5,770 Kale: 1,770
Raisins: 2,830 Spinach: 1,260
Blueberries: 2,400 Brussels sprouts: 980
Blackberries: 2,036 Alfafa sprouts: 930
Strawberries: 1,540 Broccoli florets: 890
Raspberries: 1,220 Beets: 840
Plums: 949 Red bell pepper: 710
Oranges: 750 Onion: 450
Red Grapes: 739 Corn: 400
Cherries: 670 Eggplant: 390


Food and Nutrition Research Briefs

ARS-USDA 1999,April

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