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Antioxidants in Fruits

Fruits, especially berries, are full of antioxidants essential for good health.

Drinking Your Antioxidants in Wine and Juice

More than 300 studies cite plentiful antioxidants in red wine, grape juice, grape seed, and grape skin extracts. Red wine is loaded with flavonoids like anthocyanidins and catechins. Studies show that when animals are given grape products (the study did not specify which products) the artery-clogging process slows down. The same thing seems to happen with humans, Prior says.

This is at the heart of what's known as the French paradox, a theory that emerged in the 1990s. French people have lower rates of heart attacks despite the rich cuisine they eat because they drink moderate amounts of red wine with their meals.

Many of the same flavonoids are found in black and green tea as well as dark chocolate, but the bulk of research has been on grape flavonoids. Researchers say that flavonoids may help promote heart health by preventing blood clots (which can trigger a heart attack or stroke), prevent cholesterol from damaging blood vessel walls, improve the health of arteries (making them expand and contract more easily), and stimulating the production of nitric oxide, which may prevent hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Another antioxidant called reservatrol, found in red grapes, raspberries, and mulberries, seems to affect age-regulated genes, allowing cells to live longer and offsetting the risk of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease.

According to the American Heart Association, drinking a moderate amount of wine -- one or two glasses daily for men, no more than one for women -- lowers heart disease and may be safe. However, it cautions that this recommendation should be tailored for an individual's risks for heart disease and the potential benefits (as well as risks) of drinking.

Grape juice has similar antioxidant powers, researchers say. One study showed that drinking a tall glass of grape juice daily lowered LDL (also called "bad") cholesterol significantly. It also improved the blood flow in artery walls. Another point: You can drink all you want and drive home safely.

"A number of studies show that Concord grapes and grape juice have a higher concentration of antioxidants than ordinary table grapes," says Prior.

Just don't make the mistake of downing too much grape juice - or wine - in a day's time, says Moore. "Like dried fruit, these are very concentrated calories. Be careful, because those calories add up. It's better to eat more grapes."

 

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Reviewed on September 11, 2008

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