Should you worry about which foods contain the most antioxidants?
Posted by kathryn in Uncategorized
Paul has asked:
I was just wondering, with all the great fresh fruits around, which have the highest amounts of antioxidants? I’ve heard pomegranates, but what about blueberries, and oranges?
I have to admit I find it hard to keep up with the list of top antioxidant containing foods. It seems to change with annoying regularity. At the moment I’m pretty sure it’s a toss up between acai berry and pomegranate juice. Although Indian gooseberries are also making a claim for the top spot. While a few years ago the number ones were wild blueberries and dried legumes.
While it’s interesting to know which foods are highest in antioxidants, I’m not sure how nutritionally useful this information is. For starters, the winners seem to have moved away from normal every day foods – the kind of things you’d buy at the supermarket. Goji, acai, pomegranate juice and billberries are not cheap. And I’ve no idea where you’d buy Indian gooseberries from.
Plus I find the idea of superfoods misleading. To concentrate on the foods that contain the most antioxidants implies they’re the only food you need. It gives the impression that if you eat this one, really expensive food, you’ll never have any health problems and you don’t have to bother with other fruit and veg.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The most important thing about antioxidants is to be having a variety. Neither pomegranate juice, billberries, nor even Indian gooseberries contain all the antioxidants you need.
Antioxidants are not one homogenous thing. There are actually many, MANY different kinds. They’re split into groups. For example:
- anthocyans found in berries
- flavonoids in apples, citrus, tea, potatoes
- carotenoids in carrots and green leafy vegies
- catechins in green tea, cinnamon and turmeric
- isothiocyanates in radishes and mustard
- indoles in broccoli and Brussels sprouts
- vitamin C in fruit and green vegetables
- the tocopherols in vegetable oils, nuts and avocado
However, even within these individual groups there’s a stack load of variety. If you concentrate on only a handful of foods you simply won’t get the mix and levels of antioxidants you need to be healthy, both now and into the future
What should you do?
My recommendation is to eat as many different kinds of fruit and vegetables as you can.
It’s easy to get into a rut when doing your grocery shopping. Buying the same fruit and veg each week. But break out of this habit. Instead buy different foods.
One of the simplest ways to make sure you’re getting a variety, is to buy different colours. Make sure your shopping basket contains:
- dark greens, such asspinach, brocolli, rocket and Asian greens
- lighter greens like kiwi fruit, green beans and zucchini
- oranges like pumpkin, honeydew melon and . . . oranges
- the reds of tomato, watermelon, red capsicum, chilli and beetroot
- dark blues and purples, such as berries and eggplant
- the white of onions and garlic
- yellows like squash and yellow capsicum
Ignore the superfoods. While oranges, blueberries and kiwi fruit may not be at the top of the antioxidant list, they’re still packed full of goodness.
What is Q & A Month?
This post is part of Q & A Month. For those of you new to Limes & Lycopene, I usually run a fortnightly question and answer forum, called Q & A Thursday. But for the next four weeks, it’s Q & A Month. If you have a question, or there’s a topic you’d like me to cover, leave a comment below or send me an email. For more information you can take a look at the Q & A Thursday archives.