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Healthy Antioxidants: How Much a Day?

American Diets Could Get a Boost From Colorful Berries and Other Fruits

WebMD Health News

May 11, 2006 -- Researchers are now getting a better understanding of how much of a class of healthy antioxidants Americans are eating every day.

A new study shows the average American consumes 12.5 milligrams of anthocyanins from fruits, vegetables, and other sources per day.

Anthocynanins are pigments responsible for the blue, purple, and red colors of blueberries, grapes, and other fruits. Recent research has suggested that anthocyanins are potent antioxidants and may provide a variety of health benefits, from promoting a healthy heart to fighting cancercancer.

Researchers say the total anthocyanin content of various foods varies greatly; many commonly eaten foods have not been analyzed for anthocyanin content. In their study, researchers measured the anthocyanin content of more than 100 foods.

Crunching the Numbers

The results showed the highest concentrations of anthocyanins were found in fresh berries -- such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries -- as well as other fruits and vegetables. Wine and grape juice also contain significant levels of anthocyanins.

Researchers then estimated the average daily intake of these nutrients based on national dietary surveys. They found the overall daily intake of anthocyanins was 12.5 milligrams per day, much less than estimates published in the 1970s that put average daily anthocyanin intake at 215 milligrams in summer and 180 milligrams in winter.

The main reason for this huge difference in the amount of anthocyanin in American diets is that the 1970 figures were not based on such detailed food surveys as the present study.

Major sources of anthocyanins in the average American diet were fruits, berries, grape juice, and wine. Researchers say with the increasing availability of fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, the average intake of these antioxidants may increase in the future.

Incorporating frozen berries into the diet during the winter months or using nutritional supplements rich in anthocyanins may also help boost Americans' intake of these nutrients.

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