Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods

Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods
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In the most extensive study of its kind ever published, the amount of anti-aging anticancer antioxidants is measured across thousands of different foods.

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

Frankly, I thought it was over in 2007. Remember, the 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 such study ever, by far. Are there even 3,000 foods out there? Just looking at the first page of the 138-page chart they include with the study, you know you’re in for a wild ride when they don’t just include something like gooseberries, or Indian gooseberries, or Indian gooseberries in a can, but even the antioxidant power of the syrup in the can of Indian gooseberries.

They 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, evidently, to Santa Claus beer from Austria, which put Guinness to shame, and all the rest . Don’t laugh; the standard American diet is so pitiful that beer represents the fifth largest source of antioxidants in the United States.

They measured Cap’n Crunch, the antioxidant content of Tootsie Rolls, everything from Krispy Kreme to the crushed dried leaves of the African Boabab tree. The skin of an organic lemon. Norwegian jungle dessert. It took them eight years to compile all 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 ones? 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 everything into plant foods versus animal foods. Here’s plant foods. Here’s animal foods. On average, plant foods have 64 times more antioxidants than meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. This alone represents a powerful argument to eat a plant-based diet. Every time 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 up to 289,000.

Quoting from the conclusion: “Antioxidant-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 antioxidant phytochemicals found in plants…”

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

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

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

Frankly, I thought it was over in 2007. Remember, the 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 such study ever, by far. Are there even 3,000 foods out there? Just looking at the first page of the 138-page chart they include with the study, you know you’re in for a wild ride when they don’t just include something like gooseberries, or Indian gooseberries, or Indian gooseberries in a can, but even the antioxidant power of the syrup in the can of Indian gooseberries.

They 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, evidently, to Santa Claus beer from Austria, which put Guinness to shame, and all the rest . Don’t laugh; the standard American diet is so pitiful that beer represents the fifth largest source of antioxidants in the United States.

They measured Cap’n Crunch, the antioxidant content of Tootsie Rolls, everything from Krispy Kreme to the crushed dried leaves of the African Boabab tree. The skin of an organic lemon. Norwegian jungle dessert. It took them eight years to compile all 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 ones? 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 everything into plant foods versus animal foods. Here’s plant foods. Here’s animal foods. On average, plant foods have 64 times more antioxidants than meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. This alone represents a powerful argument to eat a plant-based diet. Every time 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 up to 289,000.

Quoting from the conclusion: “Antioxidant-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 antioxidant phytochemicals found in plants…”

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

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

50 responses to “Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods

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  1. 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




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    1. 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).




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      1. I agree with Paul. Exactly what you just said Michael would be of great help for the existing portion of readers with little knowledge in health science. As of now, a lot of the videos on antioxidants come off as if antioxidants alone were the only or the most important factor for health, when we know indeed there is more than just that antioxidants to health.




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  2. 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




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    1. Dr. Gernez, most famous in France for world-changing work on preventing degenerative diseases, recommended to blow of a minute amount of pollen on newborns (anytime during their immunotolerance period) along with minute amounts of vaccuum cleaner dust collected in late summer (“yuk” you may say, I know!) as a means to get their immune system to recognize pollen. It may be less necessary in places where moms and their newborn are discharged within days of the delivery, because that way the baby is naturally exposed to allegens in the short window of opportunity that is his first few weeks of life. Any medical textbook refers to that period of immunotolerance and the doctor did it on all his family, none are allergic.
      That’s the only really valuable thing I’ve heard so far on pollen, and I’m like you always curious to learn more about its benefits, perhaps more as a food this time :)




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  3. 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!!




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    1. 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.




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  4. 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




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  5. 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.




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  6. 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.




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  7. 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. 




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  8. 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?




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  9. 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.




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      1. 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.




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  10. 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




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    1. Toasting removes moisture (and weight) so if test is per 100 grams, 100grams of toast contains more wheat than untoasted.




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  11. 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?




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  12. 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.




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    1. 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!




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  13. What is the secret to aging more slowly and living longer? NOT ANTIOXIDANTS, apparently.

    Many people believe that free radicals, the sometimes-toxic molecules produced by our bodies as we process oxygen, are the culprit behind aging. Yet a number of studies in recent years have produced evidence that the opposite may be true.

    Now, researchers at McGill University have taken this finding a step further by showing how free radicals promote longevity in an experimental model organism, the roundworm C. elegans.

    “The Intrinsic Apoptosis Pathway Mediates the Pro-Longevity Response to Mitochondrial ROS in C. elegans”, Callista Yee, Wen Yang, and Siegfried Hekimi, Cell, May 8, 2014 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2014.02.055

    https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/node/20712




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  14. Dear Dr Gerger. I want to express my great appreciation for sharing this information. It is good to have a source where you get the facts.
    I watched you presentatiom on the leading causes of death and it is one of the most impressive presentations I’ve ever seen.
    It changed, and probably will extend, my life. Thank you very much.




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  15. Hi Dr Greger,

    Thank you so much for this valuable resource!

    A quick question on my favorite topic, beer. You mentioned a breakdown of the different antioxidant properties of different beers but I was wondering if there is any research around other health benefits to beers. For example, some great beer coming out of Russian River in California include brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus. Could these possibly be serving as probiotics?

    Potential health areas for discovery:
    Organic vs non-organic beer
    Unfiltered vs filtered
    Hop content directly influencing antioxidant levels

    Best,
    Drew




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  16. Dr. Greger, For vegans who periodically fast (every couple of weeks I fast for 2-3 days), is there some harm being done because we fail to ingest antioxidants/phytochemicals while fasting? HD




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  17. I’ve made it a habit to have red cabbage sauerkraut ever since I heard red cabbage had far more antioxidants per dollar than even wild blueberries, but now I have a question.

    Are the antioxidants in the red cabbage I eat still that effective after 21 days of fermentation (not to mention, since I make a larger amount than can be eaten in one sitting, the amount of time it will spend sitting in the refrigerator until I get around to eating it)?




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  18. Hi Matt,

    I am a volunteer for Dr. Greger. Thanks so much for your question. This is an excellent question that I’m not sure we have a clear scientific answer on.

    That being said, there has been no published study, to my knowledge, that shows that one can have too many antioxidants from food. The research that finds that too many antioxidants can be damaging, are almost always referring to supplements. There are studies suggesting that vitamins A, C, and E supplements may increase the risk for certain conditions and risk factors. But no research has shown that getting these vitamins from plant-sources of food are dangerous in any way. Just the opposite is true–eating high quantities of foods rich in these antioxidants and others has been shown to be protective of many chronic diseases. I hope this helped to answer your question!




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