Doctor's Note

This is that laser study I talked about: Antioxidant Level Dynamics.What do I mean by daily minimum of antioxidants? You must have missed my last video, Minimum Recommended Daily Allowance of Antioxidants.I used a similar technique to illustrate the potent antioxidant power of spices. See Antioxidants in a Pinch.All fruits and veggies aren’t the same. I make this point in different ways in videos like Which Fruit Fights Cancer Better? and Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants.I have a series of videos on which foods have the most antioxidants. See Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods and Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods. Note these are measured based on test tube tests. There are more sophisticated ways to measure antioxidant activity. See Anti Up on the Veggies.What’s the cheapest common source of whole food antioxidants? See Superfood Bargains for a dollar per dollar comparison. What’s the cheapest uncommon source? See Dragon’s Blood.Are there diminishing returns to getting too many antioxidants? See Maxing Out on Antioxidants.So if we have that bowl of berries in the morning to meet our minimum daily antioxidant needs can we just call it a day?. Hint: the title of my next video is: Antioxidant Rich Foods With Every Meal.If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.
  • Gregm

    I did some quick calculation and it comes down to this.
    Eat cookie, eat 5 blueberries

  • bob

    is there an online source where you can see a list or use a calculator to work out our own personal diets. This video is excellent but to make this really useful we need to apply it. In particular, trying to get family members to eat healthier by showing them the lack of antioxidants in their diet

    Brilliant video, this series has such potential to help your everyday man make sense of it all. A simple target and a way to see how easy it is to miss it through uniformed decisions.

    • Veganrunner

      Hi Bob,
      Under Doctors notes Dr Greger has videos linked that talk about the highest antioxidants.

      • bob

        Thanks veganrunner. I was thinking more of a whole list of all food types, not just a video summary of some foods. i guess what would be amazing is if food packaging had antioxident content on it. e.g spinach raw 100g – 100 units, cooked 50 units. In a way I’m surprised the vegetable industry hasn’t tried to do this – it would really make people think more about nutrition beyond fibre and vitamin C

        • Veganrunner

          Hi Bob,
          There is a list. I am on iPhone or I would link you. Go to that video then open research of the foods tested. All foods listed and compared.

          If you don’t find it I will be on computer later in the day.

        • Veganrunner
          • bob

            Amazing, thank you!

          • lynda

            This list, which I printed in it’s entirety, is not much help. A conversion formula is needed between the unit of measure used in the report, the 8,000 minimum needed-what unit is used here? and then trying to figure out how much in a serving amount. Impossible for us non-academic types! Any help would be appreciated.

          • Veganrunner

            Personally I think it is enough to make the healthiest choices rather than keep daily totals. With the most recent videos I think that is the message for breakfast lunch and dinner then have teas throughout the day.

            But I understand if that isn’t enough for you.

        • Brandon Klinedinst
          • bob

            thanks brandon, it’s quite tempting to copy all this data into an excel spreadsheet. Viola, homemade antioxidant calculator

    • Kjell Ottesen

      Hi Bob!
      I would recommend you get your antioxidant levels scanned before you change your diet. With a baseline score, you can rescan a few months later to see if your score has increased. I use a scanner to measure my intake and I have close to reach my zenith, meaning I have just about saturated my antioxidant receptors in my body. I no longer get colds, infections etc since my immune system is so high! Even though diet is an important factor in increasing your antioxidant levels, good supplements that WORKS is just as important to maximize your levels. Good luck with your changes, you are headed in the right direction for sure!!

      • bob

        How do you have your antioxident levels scanned? is this a blood test? How accurate is it and how much do you pay?

        • Kjell Ottesen

          There are scanners all over the US and Canada. It measures antioxidants on a molecular level so it is very accurate. Scans run about $20 – $25 and takes about 90 seconds to complete. It simply scans the palm of your hand with a LED light. I would be happy to connect you with a scanner operator, I just want to respect this blog and not endorse the company here. You can contact me directly if you like more info at kjell@springeramerica.com

          • Darryl

            Note, reflection spectroscopy detects skin carotenoid concentration, not overall antioxidant levels. Here’s a paper using the technology Kjell describes:

            Maeter, H., et al. “Case study: in vivo stress diagnostics by spectroscopic determination of the cutaneous carotenoid antioxidant concentration in midwives depending on shift work.” Laser Physics Letters 10.10 (2013): 105701.

          • Kjell Ottesen

            The scanner I am referring to uses Raman Spectroscopy which measures the Carotenoid Molecules in your skin. Reflection spectroscopy takes a”snapshot” image of the orange color in your skin which is the dominant color of the caretoniods. So there is a difference between the two. Carotenoids are now an accepted biomarker for all antioxidant families. But both scanning methods will give you a quick, non invasive measurement of your AO levels. Here is some whitepaper info on the Raman Spectroscopy one: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/97182049/2.01LesterPackerAndTheScanner.pdf

          • bob

            very interesting stuff. although i guess if you eat a lot of carrots and not much else it could skew the results?

          • Kjell Ottesen

            HI Bob!
            Even though carrots are good for you, it is more complex than that! There is something called “The Antioxidant Network” which contains of the following: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, CoQ10, Selenium, Gluthathione, and Alphalipoic Acid. All of these components are required for your AO levels to increase. And more importantly, the enemy of the antioxidant are the free radicals. Avoiding FRs are just as important and some examples are smoking (the worst one, One cigarette contains about 10-12 Quadrillion free radicals, pesticides, stress, Xrays, pollution etc. As Dr Greger also mention, just getting through the day with normal body functions, we also produce free radicals, so it is critical to compensate with proper amount of antioxidants.

  • A. Jeffrey

    Hey Dr. Greger,
    Any thoughts on Juice Plus powder concentrates? My guess is this might be a good idea for those who eat the SAD, but any information on whether it would be additionally helpful for one eating plant based. One of there claims is to reduce oxidative stress. Thanks in advance.

  • Annie L

    Could too many antioxidants somehow ramp up the immune system and trigger autoimmune issues? Certain things that elevate immune system have been known to be a no-no for folks with autoimmune diseases.

    • Darryl

      Actually many, and perhaps most, plant compounds that are in vitro antioxidants inhibit nuclear factor-κB, a master regulator of inflammation (including that of auto-immune diseases). Google the natural product compounds in table 1, and you’ll find they’re ubitquitous in plant foods, especially high-”antioxidant” ones.

      • Annie L

        What happens when humans fast, maybe a few days without food…..no antioxidants coming in yet still having exposure to free-radicals (pollution, air particles, etc.)? Does the body have its own ability to regulate this sort of stuff? In the absence of food?

        • Darryl

          The vast majority of the free radicals your body are exposed to are created in normal metabolism, though they are increased in inflammatory states. They’re used to fight infection (and in autoimmune disorders, illusory infection), intracellular signalling, and a few leak out from mitochondria, the energy transforming organelles. Your body will stop producing free radicals sometime after its dead, and living in a hermetically sealed bubble would have a negligible effect on reducing exposure.

          Organisms have had to deal with mopping up the consequences of their own chemistry for billions of years, so there are endogenous mechanisms to regulate free radical levels and inflammation. Which have been mostly good enough to get our ancestors through their fertile years, but not much further. Many plant compounds that act as antioxidants in test tubes appear to modulate endogenous antioxidant, inflammatory, and repair responses, but probably not through their direct antioxidant activity.

          • Annie L

            Thanks.

          • Annie L

            OK. But so I understand this correctly, what about if a Buddhist Monk (i know some) goes a couple weeks fasting in Bangkok, Thailand, home to some of the worst air pollution on earth. He walks the city streets during the day, sleeps in bedroom with screens letting in the filth of the city’s exhaust…..yet he has absolutely no ingestion of antioxidants coming in. He is also creating some free radicals in his daily walks. This isn’t a hypothetical situation, it is actually occurring throughout the year. With many people. I don’t know what the theory says, and maybe you explained it in your last post and I’m not able to figure it out, but wouldn’t he (they) be exposed to a fair amount of free radicals in today’s day and age of living in a questionably toxic-city? And having zero-antioxidants coming in. Maybe you answered this above, I don’t know, but does the human body have its own mechanism in place (regardless of food ingestion) to combat free radicals? Thanks for making any sense of this.

          • Darryl

            Air pollution can have awful effects, especially to the lungs, but only some of that is due to free radicals. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons intercalate between DNA base pairs, causing copying errors. NOx compounds react to become nitric acid in lung mucus. And yes, during the breakdown of ozone to oxygen some radicals can attack proteins & lipids in the lung endothelium. These can overwhelm local endogenous antioxidant capacity. As endogenous antioxidant capacity (in the form of reduced glutathione, uric acid, and enzymes like superoxide dismutase, catalase, peroxiredoxins, thioredoxins etc) are orders of magnitude more potent than ingested direct antioxidants, air pollution would also overwhelm any ingested direct antioxidants.

            The neat thing about many plant compounds is that they can upregulate production of endogenous antioxidants, sometimes by a few fold. Unfortunately, plant ORAC score (the numbers you’ll note in this video) is a poor measure of this mechanism. For example, the broccoli compound sulforaphane is exceptionally potent at inducing endogenous antioxidant responses, but broccoli itself is barely in the top 200 foods ranked by ORAC.

          • Annie L

            I think I get it now….when you mention endogenous antioxidants, you are referring to that which is already in us (not from food sources). I just assumed that the human body was entirely dependent on the human making a choice to eat certain foods, but it seems we have this innate (endogenous) system in us already that produces antioxidants. Thanks.

  • Devin

    Was trying to do the math but figured it might be quicker just to ask. Anyone know how a cup of green tea and/or hibiscus tea stacks up using the above scale? Seems like he is using a different scale in this video versus others.

  • Darryl

    Alas, ORAC assays say next to nothing about how polyphenols function in living systems. For that, we’d need composite measures of bioavailability and potency of the compounds and their metabolites in inducing endogenous antioxidant responses, because their absorption and in vivo direct antioxidant activity are negligible. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

    At best, ORAC appears to offer a very rough proxy for polyphenol content.

    • VegAtHeart

      Does it make sense to speak of a “sweet spot” for the concentration of endogenous antioxidant enzymes as well as inflammation modulating compounds? To your knowledge, has anyone tried to define what that sweet spot would be, even coarsely?

      • Darryl

        Probably.

        At the extremes, mice deficient in Nrf2 (and with limited endogenous antioxidant capacity) develop normally but are highly susceptible to oxidative stress, while constituative Nrf2 activation (full antioxidant response, all the time) is lethal. Some reactive oxygen species are required in normal signalling. Eg this review details the role of ROS in muscle adaptation to exercise, while page F of this one concerns the role of ROS in insulin sensitivity and preventing metabolic syndrome. A good discussion of the sort of balancing act between conflicting goals you may be thinking about is offered in part 5 of this excellent paper.

        Likewise, some inflammation is necessary. NADPH oxidase, an important superoxide generating enzyme in inflammation, is implicated in seemingly every chronic disease, but those born with defective versions, or chronic granulomatous disease, suffer recurrent infections, and once all died in childhood.
        Likewise, potent anti-inflammatory TNF inhibitorsand IL-1 inhibitors, prescribed for inflammatory auto-immune disorders, all increase the risk of severe infections.

      • VegAtHeart

        I am replying to my deleted question here to provide a context for Darryl’s response below. The original question was something like:

        Do you think that there is a ‘sweet spot’ in the cellular concentration of Nrf2 inducers as well as anti-inflammatory inducers?

  • Richard Crandall

    Does it matter when you eat your antioxidants?

    I’m not sure this is a huge concern, since my diet overwhelmingly is made up of fruits, veggies (real ones, not iceberg lettuce), nuts/seeds, legumes, & whole grains. I also drink a good bit of green tea throughout the day. I’m curious though because I’ve gotten into the habit of making a smoothie before bed which includes hibiscus & amla powder. A lot of these videos on antioxidants talk about how you start your mornings at an antioxidant high and work your way back down, if you don’t mediate the decline with antioxidant-rich foods. If that’s the case, is it better to load up on antioxidants when you first wake up, or is your body able to absorb a huge antioxidant load (as is found in an amla/hibiscus combo) at any time of day? I’m concerned that I’m wasting all of that antioxidant power by loading up on them before bed, especially if they’re not really all that necessary during sleeping hours.

    • Coacervate

      Hi Richard, somewhere in the vast database here Dr. G covered that one with some data showing that it IS better to “smoothie” out your intake throughout the day. I keep a glass of cold-brew green tea going and top it up all day long (and night). I believe I can actually feel the difference just adding green tea makes. You might try searching the alphabet menu to the left.

  • Coacervate

    Once again I am moved to say THANKS! I need to come back here regularly else I start to veer off course. BTW/ what are “little red beans?”. I’m heading out to Binn Inn and thought I might get some strange looks asking for LRBs, heh.

    • Psych MD

      This is an amazingly informative video and discussion. I’m not sure who Darryl is, a Nutritionfacts staffer or simply a forum member, but your contributions are exceptional. Like a previous poster I enjoy a daily smoothie (Nutriblast) packed with pretty much everything Dr. G has featured including amla. I did some research into triphala since it is an even more amazing antioxidant than amla alone. Taking the heavy metal concerns into account I went ahead and switched to triphala after reading the quality control statement of a particular company in which they specifically address the issues of heavy metals and pesticides. Unless they are commiting out and out fraud I am satisfied that the benefits outweigh the risks.

  • DH

    I try to eat healthy – I avoid meat, fish, eggs, dairy, poultry etc. I limit my consumption of sugar, aim for as little salt as possible in cooking, use very little oil in cooking, consume only plant-based products. I take a reasonably small number of supplements to buttress this vegan diet. However, beyond that, I rarely get intense about “health foods”. Certainly I don’t go out of my way to consume large portions of fruit, given that I have a tendency towards metabolic syndrome. I am concerned that the pursuit of anti-oxidant rich foods misses the point about eating whole, healthy diets with abundant food variation. It misses the point on how poor the SAD is. It may just be icing on the cake after converting to a no junk food plant-based diet. And it’s largely based on in vitro (level 5) evidence. I think in getting the public to clean up their (dietary) act, we need to focus our resources and efforts wisely.

  • Robin

    Can you offer all theses videos in print instead as an option? I’m never in a place I can listen but I can always read.

    • Marcella

      Just a tip, at work I use my ‘ear buds’ on my computer when I want to hear something non-work related. Just plug them into the tiny hole on the side with the tiny picture of headphones engraved in it. Or watch these quick little videos on your cell phone using the same ear buds, hope that helps

    • Guest

      There is a ‘Transcript’ option under each video which provides exactly what you are looking for.

  • Marcella

    Do you have a URL to a good list of fruit and veggie antioxidant contents? I would like to keep one handy and also to learn

    • bob

      veganrunner posted a link with all the values, look through the comments.

  • Harsh Bhavsar

    Dr. Greger, I was wondering if you would be kind to tell me what software you use for making these videos – especially the flip-flopping of charts and stuff. I am a student and have to make a presentation and would like to use similar graphics. Thanks. I love your website and youtube channel and have told family and friends about it. Thanks.

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      I will let Dr. Greger correct me if necessary but I believe he uses Keynote.

      • Thea

        Dr. Forrester: Thanks for posting this! I’ve been wanting to know the answer to this question too.

        • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

          Hi Thea, Happy Holidays. Dr. Greger has been advocating that I switch to Keynote from PowerPoint in my presentations. Who knows maybe next year will be the year. Thanks Michael!

          • Thea

            Dr. Forrester: I think Dr. Greger might be on to something. I love PowerPoint, but can’t imagine doing what Dr. Greger does in PowerPoint without spending a huge amount of time – if it could all be done at all.

            I just checked into Keynote. If I understood correct, according to Wikipedia, Keynote is for Apple/iOS software only. That leaves me out. Bummer.

          • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

            Yes Keynote is an Apple product. I have Apple computers but use Powerpoint… my former employer had a Microsoft system. You can purchase software for Macs that allows for PowerPoint but sometimes certain things get lost in translation when going back and forth. If you do presentations you might be interested in the book, PresentationZen. It has led me to dramatically change my public presentations. As they point out fancy technology and lots of details doesn’t always make for good presentations.

          • Thea

            Thanks for the book tip!

  • Ronald Chavin

    The foods that have been shown in scientific studies to prevent cancer, heart disease, stroke, brain diseases, bone diseases, kidney diseases, immune diseases, and diabetes the best in real populations of real people have very low ORAC antioxidant scores compared to the foods that Dr. Greger always recommends, which tend to have extremely high ORAC antioxidant scores.

    This confirms what the vast majority of nutritionists say about ORAC antioxidant scores: We should not rely on ORAC antioxidant scores as the main criterion for selecting our foods. Although the ability of our foods to inhibit the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is one important facet of a healthy diet, there are a dozen other important considerations that we must factor in when trying to optimize our food selections.

    For example, the foods that can lower our blood levels of estrogens (such as ground flaxseeds, nori, and foods made from soybeans) have been shown to prevent the killer diseases much more effectively in real populations of real people than the foods that inhibit the formation of reactive oxygen species most effectively.

    Other examples: The foods that contain organosulfur compounds (such as garlic and onions) have been shown to prevent the killer diseases much more effectively in real populations of real people than the foods that inhibit the formation of reactive oxygen species most effectively.

    Other examples: The foods that contain glucosinolates and myrosinase (such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, red radishes, giant white turnips, and mustard seeds) have been shown to prevent the killer diseases much more effectively in real populations of real people than the foods that inhibit the formation of reactive oxygen species most effectively.

    Other examples: The foods that contain marine omega-3 fatty acids (such as wild sockeye salmon, wild pink salmon, and oysters) have been shown to prevent the killer diseases in real populations of real people much more effectively than the foods that inhibit the formation of reactive oxygen species most effectively.

    Other examples: The foods that contain the most dietary fiber may have very low ORAC antioxidant scores but have been shown in real populations of real people to prevent the killer diseases much more effectively than the foods that inhibit the formation of reactive oxygen species most effectively.

    Other ideas: Foods that inhibit the formation of reactive nitrogen species (RNS) [nitrosation-causing], reactive carbonyl species (RCS) [carbonylation-causing], and reactive sulfur species (RSS) [thiolation-causing] may be just as important to our health as Dr. Greger’s favorite foods, which tend to inhibit the formation of reactive oxygen species [oxidation-causing] most effectively.

    Other ideas: Foods that increase our muscle mass and bone density because they contain phytosteroids (such as fenugreek seeds and forskolin from Coleus forskolii).

    Conclusion: Dr. Greger makes the mistake of selecting purple-colored fruits and vegetables (because they have high ORAC antioxidant scores) instead of many foods that have very low ORAC antioxidant scores but have been shown in real populations of real people to prevent the killer diseases and help us to live longer much more effectively. [Purple-colored plants are rich in anthocyanins, which are non-tannin polyphenols which usually - but not always - come together in our foods with tannins, which are the most powerful antioxidants in the human diet].

    • Ronald Chavin

      Another idea: People who regularly eat pork (worst), poultry, or beef have been shown to have shorter life expectancies than people who don’t eat those foods. However, people who regularly eat cheese tend to live just slightly longer than people who don’t eat cheese. This is incredible because cheese is high in artery-clogging saturated fat and also aluminum, which like iron, copper, and manganese, is a pro-oxidant. People who regularly drink high-fat milk tend to shorten their life expectancies, although not as severely as meat eaters. People who drink low-fat milk tend not to increase or decrease their life expectancies. People who drink fermented milk or yogurt tend to live even longer than cheese eaters:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573184/

      This indicates that fermented foods can be beneficial, even though they have very low ORAC antioxidant scores. Natto, the delicious, fermented, whole soybean food from Japan, doesn’t cause flatulence, is rich in the 3 soy isoflavones, is rich in other soy phytonutrients, and is 20 times higher in vitamin K2/MK-7 plus vitamin K2/MK-8 than cheese. In the case of teas, however, it’s healthier to drink unfermented teas instead of fermented teas.

      • Ronald Chavin

        Another idea: Mushrooms have extremely low ORAC antioxidant scores but people who regularly eat mushrooms tend to live much longer than people who don’t eat mushrooms:
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19048616

        As for green tea, the big picture is that Dr. Greger is correct that green tea is extremely healthy for us to drink:
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16968850

        However, drinking 8 or more cups of green tea per day has been shown to greatly increase nitrosation, which is the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines and/or the formation of reactive nitrogen species (RNS):
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10518007
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19123468

        Also, drinking green tea will partly block our ability to absorb folate (and folic acid) into our bloodstream. This means that pregnant mothers should avoid drinking green tea during the first trimester and especially during the first month of pregnancy:
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21068474
        [However, pregnant mothers should greatly increase their consumption of green vegetables and marine omega-3s throughout their entire pregnancies].

        Also, people who suffer from acid reflux disease (GERD) might want to completely avoid or greatly minimize their green tea drinking:
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3179841/

        Dr. Greger’s favorite tea, hibiscus tea, is a very risky choice because hibiscus tea contains powerful tannins which might or might not irritate our throat lining and increase our risk of developing oral, laryngeal, pharyngeal, esophageal, and gastric cardia cancers even more strongly than the less powerful tannins in green tea:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protocatechuic_acid

  • guest

    You are the best! Thanks!

  • guest

    Thanks!!! I only eat a vegan phytonutrient diet, and I know that some vegetables/fruits are more powerful than others, but I didn’t know the magnitude of the difference. And, I didn’t know that what you chose could MAKE that difference. I’m now thoroughly motivated to eat blueberries, not oatmeal.