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Curtis Harwell & Richard Neal Discuss Recipes and Antioxidants and Food

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USDA scientists analyzed antioxidant levels in more than 100 different foods, including fruits and vegetables. Each food was measured for antioxidant concentration as well as antioxidant capacity per serving size. Cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries ranked highest among the fruits studied. Beans, artichokes, and Russet potatoes were tops among the vegetables. Pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts ranked highest in the nut category.

USDA chemist Ronald L. Prior says the total antioxidant capacity of the foods does not necessarily reflect their health benefit. Benefits depend on how the food's antioxidants are absorbed and utilized in the body. Still, this chart should help consumers trying to add more antioxidants to their daily diet.

How Antioxidants Help Prevent Oxidation

As oxygen interacts with cells of any type - an apple slice or, in your body, the cells lining your lungs or in a cut on your skin -- oxidation occurs. This produces some type of change in those cells. They may die, such as with rotting fruit. In the case of cut skin, dead cells are replaced in time by fresh, new cells, resulting in a healed cut.

This birth and death of cells in the body goes on continuously, 24 hours a day. It is a process that is necessary to keep the body healthy. "Oxidation is a very natural process that happens during normal cellular functions," researcher Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, professor of nutrition at Tufts University in Boston, tells WebMD.

Yet there is a downside. "While the body metabolizes oxygen very efficiently, 1% or 2% of cells will get damaged in the process and turn into free radicals," he says.

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