Popcorn, Cereal Pack Antioxidant Punch
Breakfast Cereal and Popcorn Are Rich Sources of Polyphenols
Aug. 18, 2009 -- Whole grains pack a powerful antioxidant punch along with
their well-known fiber muscle, according to a new study.
For the first time, researchers have measured the total antioxidant content
of many popular breakfast cereals and whole-grain snacks, and it turns out that
the fiber powerhouses are also heavyweights in the cancer-fighting antioxidant
division as well.
Raisin Bran and popcorn topped the list, but the study shows that many other
popular whole-grain breakfast cereals and snacks may be an overlooked source of
healthy antioxidants known as polyphenols.
Polyphenols are often associated with the seeds and skins of fruits and
vegetables and are a major reason why wine, chocolate, and coffee have been
become well known for their potential role in fighting cancer, heart disease,
and other ailments.
"Early researchers thought the fiber was the active ingredient for these
benefits in whole grains, the reason why they may reduce the risk of cancer and
coronary heart disease," researcher Joe Vinson, PhD, of the University of
Scranton in Pennsylvania, says in a news release. "But recently, polyphenols
emerged as potentially more important. Breakfast cereals, pasta, crackers, and
salty snacks constitute over 66% of whole grain intake in the U.S. diet."
Grains Have Antioxidants, Too
The study, presented this week at a meeting of the American Chemical
Society, measured the total polyphenol content of nine whole-grain flours, 28
ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, four hot cereals, and 38 grain-based foods and
snacks, including pasta, crackers, chips, and popcorn.
"We found that, in fact, whole-grain products have comparable antioxidants
per gram to fruits and vegetables,” Vinson says.
Based on the typical serving size, researchers say that oat cereals had the
most antioxidants, followed by corn, wheat, hot oat cereals, and rice
Of the breakfast cereals tested, Raisin Bran had the highest antioxidant
count per serving at 524 milligrams. But researchers say this was primarily
because of the addition of phenol-rich raisins.
The results showed a wide variation in the antioxidant content of each class
of cold cereals. For example, cinnamon- and cocoa-flavored cereals were much
higher in antioxidants than would be expected from their grain content
Researchers say bran cereals made from wheat are not much higher in
antioxidants than other wheat cereals, but they have more fiber. Whole-grain
flours were also very high in antioxidants.
Among snack foods, the results showed that popcorn had the highest levels of