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Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods

In the most extensive study of its kind ever published, the amount of anti-aging anticancer antioxidants is measured across thousands of different foods.

August 22, 2011 |
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Acknowledgements

Images thanks to TheCrimsonMonkey, mycola, Leandroid, temmuzcan, FotoJagodka, and Renee Comet at the National Cancer Institute.

Transcript

In the beginning,  blueberries were the best.  Then walnuts took the title, then  wild blueberries took it back, then  small red beans were the #1 most antioxidant packed foods… until herbs and spices were tested.

I frankly thought it was over in 2007.  Remember, USDA had released a database of 277 foods. When only 40 foods were tested blueberries were #1, but when  hundreds of foods were tested blueberries,  no longer even made the top ten. I ranked them for you by serving size, and by cost, antioxidant bang for your buck. Mission accomplished, until, last year.

“The total antioxidant content of more than 3,000 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. The most comprehensive ever, by far. Are there even 3000 foods out there? Just looking at the first page the 138 page chart of their data, you know you're in for a wild ride when they don't just include something like  gooseberries, whatever those are, or  Indian Gooseberries, or indian gooseberries in a can, but even the antioxidant power of the  syrup in the can of the Indian gooseberries.

The tested 30 different beers, for those who stay up all night wondering if there’s more antioxidants in Coors or Bud Light?  The answer? Miller by a hair. But nothing compared to  Santa Claus beer from Austria, which put Guinness and the rest to shame. Don’t laugh, the standard American diet is so pitiful that beer represents the 5th largest source of antioxidants in the United States.

They  measured Cap’n Crunch, the antioxidant content  of tootsie rolls,  everything from Kirspy Kreme to the  crushed dried leaves of the African Boabab tree.  The skin of an organic lemon. , Norwegian jungle dessert. It took them 8 years to compile this data.

With 3,139 foods tested you can get as nitty gritty as you want.  Like those new gold kiwis, do they have more antioxidants than the regular green kiwis? About three times as much! This body of work can help us decide hundreds of real-life grocery store decisions we make all the time, but it’s easy to get lost in the details. Let’s take a step back, which is what the researchers did. What does this body of work say about what we should eat, in general?

 The first thing they did, table 1, was to split it into plant foods versus animal foods.  Heres plant foods.  Here’s animal foods.  On average, plant foods have 64 times more antioxidants than meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. This represents a powerful argument to eat a plant-based diet. Everytime you eat something in  this column, you miss out on an opportunity to eat something in  this column. Animal foods  max out at 100,  plant foods go to 289,000.

 Quoting from the conclusion: “rich foods originate from the plant kingdom while meat, fish and other foods from the animal kingdom are low in antioxidants…. Diets comprised mainly of animal- based foods are thus low in antioxidant content while diets based mainly on a variety of plant-based foods are antioxidant rich, due to the thousands of bioactive anti- oxidant phytochemicals found in plants which are conserved in many foods and beverages.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger
  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/paulb/ PaulB

    A couple of comments,

    First congratulations on the launch! I intend to be a daily reader. Your contribution to the health of people everywhere as well as the health of the planet, and benefit to animal welfare is immeasurable. Thank you.

    Second, I want to tie back this video with the video you did on Beliveau’s work on foods fighting cancer. Beliveau while acknowledging the importance of antioxidants cautions overemphasizing this as a health metric (proxy) (See pages 60 to 64 in Beliveau’s Foods to Fight Cancer). The specific example he gives in those pages is of isothiocyanates which have very limited antioxidant potential but which are also believed, based on current research, to have among the highest effects on stopping cancer. I realize that this video was primarly to compare the metrics of animal vs. plant food. And so, in such a comparison, antioxident given the wealth of data makes sense. A disclaimer, say 30 seconds or a cross reference to the work you did on capturing Beliveau’s research (I think Furhman gave onion a 50 ANDI score, I will have to check)would help.

    Paul

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Thank you for your kind words, and you’re absolutely right that the antioxidant power of plant foods represents only one of their many benefits. That’s indeed why I presented those two videos (part 1 and part 2) ranking vegetables by their ability to slow down cancer cell growth. Just because something is good for you doesn’t mean it necessarily has lots of antioxidants (like oyster mushrooms) and just because something has lots of antioxidant power doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you (uric acid and preservatives like BHT come to mind).

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/corygold/ corygold

    Dear Dr. Greger,
    I have seen most of the videos that you have released on your DVD sets and I was curious if you have come across any studies relating to bee pollen. I am a vegan and take my B12 supplement several times a week in addition to my daily spoonful of bee pollen. I know that some people argue that bee pollen isn’t necessarily vegan although I guess that is in the grey area. Have you come across any studies discussing the pros/cons of taking this so called “superfood”? Thank you so much for your time and for putting this site up.
    -CoryG

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

    I would like to know the same regarding bee pollen and the safety of glucasomine

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/johnswallow/ JohnSwallow

    Dear Dr. Greger: Is antioxidant power THE ONLY measure of antioxidants, so that the higher the ORAC value the better and variety of antioxidants not so critical?? I’m confused!!

    This is an incredible website that I promote to many!! Thank you so VERY MUCH!!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/johnswallow/ JohnSwallow

      I’m eager to find your answers on nutritionfacts.org! I’m intelligent, just not this web-savvy!! balangiga@aol.com Please help! Great website! Its too early to nominate you for a Nobel Prize in Medicene, but its CERTAINLY COMING! John S.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/johnswallow/ JohnSwallow

    balangiga@aol.com John Swallow 4th message, 1st with notification requested to my Email.!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Sorry it took me so long to get to your comment. Please see my answer to PaulB above.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/wickedchicken/ wickedchicken

    LOL that beer is the 5th greatest source of antioxidants in the American diet!!!! OMG.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/sherry7701/ sherry7701

    Dr. Gregor,

    You have given us all a wonderful gift with this website. Thank you for the fantastic resource to help us all navigate the complex world of nutrition science.

    Sherry

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/TanTruong/ Tan Truong

    Maybe I’m slow, but what’s the number one antioxidant food?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/megann19/ Megann19

    I don’t think you’re slow…your question is actually a good one. I don’t know of any one food in particular as holding the #1 position for post digestion antioxidant potential, as far too many variables would preclude such a finding most likely. However, the following foods have ORAC (oxygen radical absorptive capacity) scores that are considered impressive: Cocoa, red beans, berries, and spices like dried clove, oregano, ginger, cinnamon and tumeric. However, scientists are continually discovering powerful disease fighting substances in all kinds of plant foods, which is a very powerful plus for those of us following a vegetarian and/or vegan lifestyle.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/TanTruong/ Tan Truong

    Megann19, Thanks for your response. You make good points. I just thought I’d get a #1 from this study, at least on some merits and until proven otherwise. Oh well, we’ll just have to keep eating the best whole foods regardless. :)

    This site keeps me on my toes and reminds me to keep increasing my consumption of fruits and vegetables. Never felt better.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Also be sure to check out my associated blog post The last heart attack!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670735069 Tan Truong

       Your link is broken Dr. It’s the extra http at the beginning. :)

      • Michael Greger M.D.

         Thank you so much–corrected!

  • guest

    As always this is a great video. I would really love to see a video simply discussing exactly what antioxidants are and why we should be so concerned with them. 

    • guest

      also, can you give us more details about how antioxidants are calculated?

  • Toxins

    I have a question regarding the antioxidant content of the study here using FRAP and the USDA study showing ORAC values of foods.

    This study by the USDA  in your other video of the antioxidant content of 300 foods (https://www.drgourmet.com/column/dr/2010/usda-orac.pdf) seems to put apples at 3065 umol/100 grams while this study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmid/20096093/) puts apples at 300 umol/100 grams. Are these 2 methods of testing the antioxidant capacity of certain foods that inaccurate?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonas.aleksandras Jonas Kilikevicius

    Raw cacao has the most of any foods even more than acai which has a score of 536. Raw cacao has a score of 955 source: Superfoods by David Wolfe.

  • lovestobevegan

    What better way to increase your consumption of purple cabbage than with this simple to make snack.

    Antioxidant Coleslaw
    – 3 cups purple cabbage, chopped
    – 1 clove garlic, minced
    – 1 green onion, thinly sliced
    – ½ small red onion, diced
    – 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    – Sea salt and black pepper to taste

    • Combine all ingredients in a shallow dish. Better flavor is achieved when ingredients can marinate in the fridge overnight.

  • Yaron

    Great video!

    I have a short question. Is there such thing as *too much* anti-oxidants?

    • Toxins

      apparently not according to Dr. Greger.

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/maxing-out-on-antioxidants/

      • Yaron

        Thank you for the reply!

        I actually read a part of the original study. It seems that they only tested one antioxidant… Therefore I find it difficult to understand why the same result should follow for other antioxidants as well.

        Interesting stuff anyways.

  • ern2win

    Dear Dr. Greger,

    Thanks so much for highlighting this study and lists. I have downloaded the list.

    In reviewing some items in the list, I came across what seems and unusual result: Toasting whole wheat bread doubles the antioxidant value!

    Whole wheat bread Wonder USA 0.47

    Whole wheat bread, toasted Wonder USA 1.00

    1. Do you believe this is correct?
    2. How can it be explained?

    Thanks,
    -Ernie

  • Kelley

    Looks like the USDA removed the list from its website?

  • rick

    I know what antioxidants do but not sure what they are. Do all vitamins have antioxidants or just E and C? Is vitamin E a antioxidant or does it contain antioxidants?

    • Toxins

      There are many many antioxidants found in plant foods. Vitamin E and C are indeed antioxidants, but there are many more. Strawberries for example, have a wealth of antioxidants.
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22153122

  • Jeff F

    In a book on sports exercise and nutrition called “The First 20 Minutes” the author quotes a German study which showed that post
    exercise, athletes taking anti-oxidants (vitamin C and E supplements) had elevated levels of antioxidants BUT the same level of free radicals as those who hadn’t consumed the vitamins. It was because the body didn’t summon its own genetic and enzymatic defense mechanisms in the presence of the
    consumed anti-oxidants. This would indicate that consuming high levels of
    anti-oxidants may be ineffective if your body reacts by reducing its own defensive efforts. Are you aware of the validity of this research? The book also mentions similar results found a few years earlier in lab rat experiments at U of Valencia in Spain and U of Wisconsin, Madison.

    • Toxins

      Dr. Greger will release a video showing that Exercise is an oxidative activity, but for several days after, our antioxidant capabilities are significantly stronger then before the exercise. He also shows how consuming antioxidants while exercising does not produce the same effect. Details soon to come!