Vegetables and fruits, especially brightly colored ones, are a storehouse of powerful flavonoids. Flavonoids are polyphenolic antioxidants found naturally in plants. Antioxidants combat free radicals. Free radicals have been shown to be part of the disease and age-related processes.
A potent class of flavonoids found in berries is anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are used in our bodies in many ways. Anthocyanins, as antioxidants, destroy free radicals which cause oxidation damage to everything they contact. They can neutralize enzymes that destroy connective tissue.
Anthocyanins, in addition to being an antioxidant, also have anti-inflammatory capabilities. Anthocyanins have been shown to reduce the intensity of allergic reactions. In addition to repairing damaged proteins in the blood vessel walls, they protect and stabilize the blood vessel wall integrity. Anthocyanins further strengthen the blood vessel walls by preventing leakage from the capillaries.
Antioxidant values have been measured using the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) test. Anthocyanins typically show the highest ORAC values when compared to other chemical groups. The higher the ORAC value, the more potent and effective the antioxidant is to shut down the free radical chain reactions in the body.
Here are some very potent berries (in alphabetic order) with high ORAC values.
Acai is a berry found in South America. It is commonly sold in the United States as a functional food. Acai has both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Recent laboratory studies have demonstrated acai extracts to inhibit the growth and reproduction of leukemia cells.
Bell Peppers, especially the red, yellow, orange, purple and black bell peppers, provide protection against cataracts. They have also been shown to prevent blood clot formation and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Blackberry extracts have demonstrated a broad spectrum of health benefits. Laboratory studies have shown success using blackberry extracts to cause prostate, breast, and colon cancer cells to self-destruct. In addition to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities, blackberries also have also shown an antibacterial capability.
Blueberries contain alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Alpha-linolenic acid can be converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the body. Omega-3 acids reduce inflammation and are highly concentrated in the brain and heart. Diets high in blueberries have shown great blood vessel protection, especially the aorta. Blueberries have also demonstrated protection against age-related diseases of the brain.Blueberries have shown similar laboratory success in causing cancer cell self-destruction as blackberries.
Cherries have been used for so many things over the years. Many people use the dark, tart cherries to alleviate their gout and arthritis symptoms. Several laboratory studies have shown successful results with cherry extracts against a number of different cancer cells. Cherries also have laboratory proof to improve vascular health.
Grapes contain two other flavonoids – quercetin and resveratrol – both effective in promoting cardiovascular health. Studies have shown grape extracts can lower cholesterol. As with other berries, grape extracts show amazing promise in fighting cancer. Grape seed extracts are also effective in the laboratory studies of breast and leukemia cancer cells.
Raspberry extracts have demonstrated laboratory proof of inhibiting colon, prostate and cervical cancer cells from growing. In addition to anthocyanins, raspberries contain ellagitannins. Ellagitannins are converted in the body into ellagic acid which has shown tremendous results in fighting cancers.
Strawberry extracts also show laboratory success in fighting cancer cells, particularly liver, oral, breast, colon and prostate cancers. Strawberries have shown effectiveness in treating memory and learning difficulties related to aging. Laboratory studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of strawberry extracts to reduce unwanted blood clots.
Brightly colored fruits and vegetables contain many important vitamins and minerals. Additionally, they contain other important compounds such as catechins, polysaccharides, quinones, stilbenes, and polyphenols. When you have a choice between a green fruit and a bright red, yellow, orange or purple fruit, the brightly colored fruit or vegetable will usually yield a higher level of anthocyanins and other important health compounds.
When your grandmother told you to eat this or that to help your stomach or to ‘cure’ your headache, she based her recommendations on what worked consistently over the years.