Fruits and nuts are good sources of antioxidants and a number of exotic fruits have recently become very popular due to their high antioxidant content. Some people refer to these fruits as “superfoods” and are marketed aggressively to get the consumers’ attention.
If you must believe some of these marketers, each one of these exotic fruits has astronomical (ORAC) antioxidant values. For my list, I only used ORAC numbers that were either published in scientific journals or were available from publications by the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland. The ORAC values listed here are micromoles of Trolox equivalents (TE is a vitamin E derivative) per gram.
The fact that a particular food has the highest levels of antioxidants, does not necessarily mean that that food offers the most health benefits. The bio-availability of each food is different and depends on how well it is being absorbed in our intestines, how it is processed by the liver and kidneys, and if it can cross the blood-brain barrier (for it to have a positive effect on the brain).
- Acai (dried fruit) 1016/gram
- Goji Berry (Wolfberry) 253/gram
- Pecans 180 units/gram
- Black Chokeberry 160 units/gram
- Elderberry 147 units/gram
- Walnuts 135 units/gram
- Pomegranate 105 units/gram
- Cranberries 96 units/gram
Acai fruit (Euterpe oleraceae) has probably one of the highest antioxidant levels of any food, and is particularly effective against superoxide radicals. Because of this, acai has a very good effect on general health. It also has potential inhibiting activity against Cox-1 and Cox-2, and may therefore be helpful as a treatment for arthritis. Acai is used in many different drinks and foods.
Goji berry or wolfberry (Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense) belong to the nightshade family (potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes). Goji berries have a very high antioxidant activity and have been used in South East Asia for a long time. Compounds in goji berries increase nitric oxide levels in blood and could therefore be helpful to combat erectile dysfunction.
The stem and roots of the Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) plant contain a number of compounds (xanthones) that have potentially anti-cancer properties. Many of these compounds are thought to inhibit the aromatase enzyme, an enzyme belonging to the Cytochrome P450 family that converts androgens (testosterone and similar) into estrogens. Mangosteen may also be beneficial to men over 40 who wish to increase their testosterone levels.
Noni (Morinda citrifolia) juice has been shown to have a protecting effect on the liver. It has a high antioxidant value and it has been shown to dilate blood vessels. For this reason it may not be suitable for use by rosacea sufferers.
Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) trees are mainly found in the southern parts of the United States and some parts of Mexico. Pecan nuts have a buttery taste and can be eaten by itself or can be used in a variety of deserts (pecan pie). Research has suggested that the antioxidants in pecans can lower bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and that daily consumption of a handful of pecans may protect against heart disease.
Black chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa) contain high levels of dark pigments, mainly anthocyanins, which have antioxidant properties. Because of chokeberries’ high antioxidant level, chokeberries may be beneficial for a number of diseases, including heart disease, certain cancers, liver disease and chronic inflammation.
The most common Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) produces black fruit when ripe. All parts of the plant except for the flowers and ripe fruit, are poisonous. Elderberry extract is rich in antioxidants and can be used to treat bronchitis and persistent coughs, since it is believed to act as an expectorant.
Walnuts (Juglans regia) are high in antioxidants, ALA (an omega-3 fatty acid) and arginine. It has recently been shown that consumption of walnuts can protect against atherosclerosis by limiting the detrimental effect of high levels of unsaturated fats in peoples’ diet. Studies have also shown that walnut extract is able to keep beta-amyloid protein in a soluble form and preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, both of which could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Pomegranate (Punica granatum) is high in antioxidants and may be beneficial for cardiovascular health and high blood pressure. Pomegranate seed oil contains compounds that can inhibit estrogens and has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of breast cancer cells in vitro.
Cranberries have long been considered a “superfood”, containing high levels of antioxidants. Cranberry juice is beneficial for kidney and bladder health and is able to inhibit plaque formation (on teeth). A component of cranberry juice prevents the attachment of bacteria to the wall of the bladder and urethra.
Blueberries with an ORAC score of 65 units/gram, fell just outside the list, but have many health benefits as well.