The Inside Scoop On Antioxidants
By Dianne Killebrew, MEd, RD, LDN

An antioxidant is a nutrient that occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables. To function properly, our bodies need a daily supply of antioxidants. These disease fighting nutrients are like having an insurance policy for your body; providing protection for tissues and when needed, repairing damage that has been done. Some examples include: vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and lycopene.

In 1999, the American Heart Association published a Science Advisory (Tribble 1999) regarding antioxidant consumption and risk for coronary heart disease. It stated: "the most prudent and scientifically supported advice for the general population is to consume a balanced diet with emphasis on antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and whole grains." Artichokes and beans may not be at the top of your list of favorite foods, but when it comes to antioxidants, these veggies earn a coveted place. They are among a growing variety of foods found to contain high levels of these disease-fighting compounds.

Using the latest research technologies, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition scientists measured the antioxidant levels in over 100 different foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, dried fruits, spices and cereals. The top 20 ranked foods that interfere with or prevent damage from free radicals include:

  1. Artichokes (cooked)
  2. Blackberries
  3. Black beans
  4. Black plums
  5. Cranberries
  6. Cultivated blueberries
  7. Gala apples
  8. Granny Smith apples
  9. Pecans
  10. Pinto beans
  11. Plums
  12. Prunes
  13. Raspberries
  14. Red Delicious apples
  15. Red kidney beans
  16. Russet potatoes (cooked)
  17. Small red beans
  18. Strawberries
  19. Sweet cherries
  20. Wild blueberries

Add more color to your market basket with antioxidant- rich fruits and vegetables. For more information check out


"Lipophilic and Hydrophilic Antioxidant Capacities of Common Foods in the United States ," Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, June 2004.

Dianne Killebrew is a credentialed, licensed registered dietitian and a founding member of Food Security Partners of Middle Tennessee. Her practice niche is food system redesign and innovative nutrition education programming. She works at Vanderbilt Medical Center and currently trains future dietitians to become leaders who are difference makers.