How to Get the Most Antixoidants From Fruits continued...
"Bioavailability has to do with absorption or metabolism in the gut," Prior explains. "What's absorbed will be impacted by the mechanical structure of different antioxidants in food -- if they're tied up with fiber or if they have sugar molecules attached."
Some foods benefit from a bit of cooking, he says. One of his studies showed that by mildly steaming blueberries, the antioxidant level was enhanced, making more antioxidants available to the body. "We really don't know much about this, especially with fruits," Prior tells WebMD.
That's why variety in your diet is important. You hedge your bets by eating as many antioxidant-rich foods as possible, since researchers don't yet fully understand the complexities involved with bioavailability. It's also why you should shoot for foods that offer the highest antioxidants, such as the top producers like berries, he says.
Using the Antioxidant Color Wheel
On the color wheel, the purple-blue-red-orange spectrum is home to the most antioxidant-rich fruits.
Wild blueberries are the winner overall. Just one cup has 13,427 total antioxidants - vitamins A & C, plus flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) like querticin and anthocyanidin. That's about 10 times the USDA's recommendation, in just one cup! Cultivated blueberries have 9,019 per cup and are equally vitamin-rich. Buying tip: Peak season starts in mid-May, so blueberries are less expensive during the summer.
Cranberries are the tart crown jewels of turkey feasts. They're also antioxidant powerhouses (8,983). To get cranberries after the holiday scene has passed, creative cooks sneak dried cranberries into risottos, salads, salsas, and trail mixes.
Blackberries (7,701), raspberries (6,058), strawberries (5,938), black plums (4,873), sweet cherries (4,873), and red grapes (2,016) are also brimming with vitamins A and C and flavonoids like catechin, epicatechin, quercetin, and anthocyanidin. Tossed into a green salad, these berries add extra color, flavor, and texture. They're also very edible by the handful, with morning cereal, mixed into yogurt, spooned over waffles or pancakes, and sprinkled over ice cream.
All-American apples are also vitamin- and antioxidant-rich treats. The classic Red Delicious (5,900), Granny Smith (5,381), Gala (3,903), and many other varieties are available nearly year-round. Applesauce, juice, and jellies are also tasty apple sources, but beware of added sugar (check the label). Here's a tip: Mix some chopped apple into a tuna salad for a sandwich.
Finally, orange-colored fruits are good sources of antioxidants as well. One naval orange has 2,540; the juice has about half that. Bite into a luscious ripe mango, and you'll get 1,653. A peach has 1,826, tangerines, 1,361, and pineapple, 1,229.