Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods vs. Animal Foods

Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods vs. Animal Foods
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On average, plant foods have 64 times more antioxidant power than red meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs— but is it a fair comparison?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In a review on vegetarian diets and public health published last year, they concluded that “Sufficient scientific evidence exists for public health policy to promote a plant-rich diet for health promotion. This does not need to wait for science to provide all the answers as to why and how.”

But this is certainly one reason: on average, 64 times more antioxidant power in plant foods than animal foods—but is this really a fair comparison? Included in the plant group were some things that were really just off the charts—like some exotic wild berries you could never actually find in a store, that really skewed the chart upwards for the plant foods. I mean, people eat things like corn; they don’t eat things like dried Norwegian cornflowers. So let’s bring it down to earth.

The average plant food does indeed have over a thousand units of antioxidant power, but for comparison’s sake, just to be fair to the animal foods, I’m going to choose the least healthy plant food I can think of—good old American iceberg lettuce, which I think of as basically just water. It does not have 1,157 units of antioxidant power; it has 17.

Still beats out fish, though, which averages 11. Even salmon? 7. Chicken? 6. Iceberg lettuce has nearly three times more antioxidants than chicken! A hardboiled egg? 2. And Egg Beaters, which is just the whites, zero. Even Coca Cola has 4! The same amount found in cow’s milk, or yogurt; though soy milk only has about twice that.

While plant foods average over 1,000, the best animal foods can do, in the meat category, is a serving of ox liver at 71. It beat out moose meat, reindeer steak, but still couldn’t quite reach the antioxidant power of a Snickers bar. This is why we need to eat a plant-based diet. Because even if you lived off of ox livers, the wild blueberry of the animal kingdom, one of the few animal foods that can beat out lettuce, you’d still never come close to your daily antioxidant need.

There is one animal product, however, that does kick some serious tush, topping over 200. There are even some types of berries that didn’t test that antioxidant-rich. An animal product so healthy, I have to encourage everyone to consume it—when you’re a baby. That’s the antioxidant content of human breast milk.

During infancy, breast is best. After infancy, plants are preferred.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site. 

Images thanks to Suzifoo via istockphoto, PacHD.com, Krasowit via shutterstock, flagstafffotos, Free-extras.com, weatherrockeye, Brian0918 and Arad via wikipedia, and the National Cancer Institute. Images have been modified.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In a review on vegetarian diets and public health published last year, they concluded that “Sufficient scientific evidence exists for public health policy to promote a plant-rich diet for health promotion. This does not need to wait for science to provide all the answers as to why and how.”

But this is certainly one reason: on average, 64 times more antioxidant power in plant foods than animal foods—but is this really a fair comparison? Included in the plant group were some things that were really just off the charts—like some exotic wild berries you could never actually find in a store, that really skewed the chart upwards for the plant foods. I mean, people eat things like corn; they don’t eat things like dried Norwegian cornflowers. So let’s bring it down to earth.

The average plant food does indeed have over a thousand units of antioxidant power, but for comparison’s sake, just to be fair to the animal foods, I’m going to choose the least healthy plant food I can think of—good old American iceberg lettuce, which I think of as basically just water. It does not have 1,157 units of antioxidant power; it has 17.

Still beats out fish, though, which averages 11. Even salmon? 7. Chicken? 6. Iceberg lettuce has nearly three times more antioxidants than chicken! A hardboiled egg? 2. And Egg Beaters, which is just the whites, zero. Even Coca Cola has 4! The same amount found in cow’s milk, or yogurt; though soy milk only has about twice that.

While plant foods average over 1,000, the best animal foods can do, in the meat category, is a serving of ox liver at 71. It beat out moose meat, reindeer steak, but still couldn’t quite reach the antioxidant power of a Snickers bar. This is why we need to eat a plant-based diet. Because even if you lived off of ox livers, the wild blueberry of the animal kingdom, one of the few animal foods that can beat out lettuce, you’d still never come close to your daily antioxidant need.

There is one animal product, however, that does kick some serious tush, topping over 200. There are even some types of berries that didn’t test that antioxidant-rich. An animal product so healthy, I have to encourage everyone to consume it—when you’re a baby. That’s the antioxidant content of human breast milk.

During infancy, breast is best. After infancy, plants are preferred.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site. 

Images thanks to Suzifoo via istockphoto, PacHD.com, Krasowit via shutterstock, flagstafffotos, Free-extras.com, weatherrockeye, Brian0918 and Arad via wikipedia, and the National Cancer Institute. Images have been modified.

Doctor's Note

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