July 02, 2007

Antioxidant Fruits--It All Gets More Complicated

Like many other health conscious consumers, Crabby tries to pick the healthiest fruits and vegetables she can stand. All things being equal, if she has to eat foods that are not cupcakes or cheeseburgers, Crabby figures she'll go with SuperFoods--those packed with fiber and antioxidants and vitamins and minerals.

Crabby is particularly keen on antioxidants. She is under the impression that if she eats lots and lots of antioxidants, she'll never grow old or infirm and she'll just keep living a happy vigorous life forever! (Please don't break it to her that this is not technically true. She doesn't want to hear it).

Anyway, it seems like every week a new study comes out telling us that we really should be eating a ton of some particular food because it's packed with antioxidants. Like, for example, wild blueberries. Crabby actually reads these studies, and if the food is not vile or obscenely expensive, she dutifully goes out and buys a bunch of it and eats it so that she will never die.

But a new study has just made everything more complicated. Because now scientists are measuring how much of the antioxidants actually end up in your blood plasma, where it can do you some good. And guess what? Some of the most touted, packed-with-antioxidant Superfoods like Wild Blueberries weren't all that awesome at delivering the goods.

Researchers (led by a guy named Ronald Prior, just in case he's Googling himself) investigated how the consumption of different fruits affected plasma antioxidant capacity. Volunteers ate blueberries, cherries, dried plums, dried-plum juice, grapes, kiwis or strawberries. And guess what? The scientists discovered that some antioxidants are easier to absorb and utilize than others.

The chlorogenic acid in plums, for example, did not raise plasma AOC levels in volunteers even though plums have a lot of antioxidants. Likewise wild blueberries helped a little, but they weren't all that great. However, grapes and kiwifruit were awesome!

So what does this mean? Ditch the whole antioxidant quest and go back to cupcakes and cheeseburgers?

Well, no, not so fast. Because even the lame fruits were better than a non-fruit alternative: when volunteers drank a shake made with protein, carbohydrates and fat, their blood antioxidant levels dropped.

So from what Crabby can gather: Keep eating lots of fruits and vegetables. If you're weirdly obsessed by antioxidants and planning to live forever like Crabby is, you may want to keep an eye out for new studies which will come out with a whole different list of Superfoods that actually get more of the good stuff into your body.

Or better yet, let Crabby obsess about it. If the new list includes watermelon and peaches but leaves off broccoli and brussel sprouts, she promises you'll hear about it promptly on Cranky Fitness!

Due to some temporary "technical difficulties" Crabby will be moderating comments for a while. Which means there will be a delay between when you publish your comment and when your comment will actually appear. Don't worry! Your comment will still exist even if you don't see it for a bit. And if you hit the publish button a few times before you realize what's going on, don't worry about that either!

And one more thing--Crabby is still seeking reader suggestions for health related books or products she can put in her "Readers Recommend" Amazon ad. So far, BunnyGirl has supplied a couple of good ones. Anyone else? You can leave your ideas in the comments to this post, or the last one, or any place you want! Crabby will find it.


  1. I'm totally confused. It's six am where you are? How can that even be possible. I'm a thinking that something is amiss with your timestamping missy.

    Oh wait was I supposed to comment on fruit? I have no fruity comments but I did link you nice and slick like over at my Family Resource blog -- hopefully send more loving traffic your way and what not. Maybe some of them will even click on the ol' Amazon ads.

  2. Hi Jennifer!

    Yep, I sometimes move the timestamp forward to the next morning when I'm working on a draft, just because I've accidentally published things out of order before. But this time I did the opposite--decided to publish before I went to bed and forgot to change the time back to the present.

    Anyway, enough about timestamps--thank you so much for the Family Resources Link! I shall run over there ASAP and check it out.

  3. Eat 'em anyway. Just like you said.
    Studies can be manipulated to mean any danged thing you want so I don't have a great deal of faith in most of what I read. Unless it's here at Cranky Fitness, of course.
    Anyway, I'm annoyed at our current all-or-nothing world so I rarely participate in it.
    Blueberries are good and good for you, and kiwifruit is lovely. Eat 'em both after the cheeseburger with a cupcake on the side. You'll be fine.

  4. In my opinion, it's best not to obsess too much about this kind of thing. I just pile on the veggies and fruits, raw most of the time. Variety is best.

    You wanna book suggestion? I just got done reading What to Eat by Marion Nestle. Ok, I couldn't bring myself to read the parts about the meat industry because I knew if I did, I wouldn't sleep a wink.

  5. Hi Leah,
    I think you have totally the right attitude on this! You would think I would learn by now, but somehow I take every Scientific Study (except the obviously stupid and ridiculous ones) and treat it as gospel until a week later a new study says something completely different. Ah well. Gives me something to write about I guess. (And yes, cheeseburgers and cupcakes on the side every now and then!)

    And hi goinggone,
    Very sensible advice about variety on the fruit & veggies! That way, you're covered the next time the scientists change their mind.

    And thanks so much for the book idea--I'll try to put that one in today too. Hopefully it should appear in the rotation on the lower sidebar link. (The other ones I can't customize).

  6. I've seen so many studies reverse themselves over the years that I no longer pay them much mind.

    I'm tired of hearing that broccoli is good for me, broccoli will kill me, and broccoli is good for me again. I'm sick of being told that the potato skin is where all the vitamins are, potato skins will give me cancer, and potato skins are okey-dokey again.

    Whatever makes for good copy on a slow news day, right?

    To me, it's simple. If it grows naturally and isn't obviously poisonous, it's perfectly healthy to eat in reasonable amounts.

    Blueberries are lovely. So are kiwis. And apples, peaches, and other fruits. Vegetables, too. Eat a nice variety of them every day, and you'll be just fine. :-)

  7. I have LOTS of recommendations LOL - off the top of my head: Mastering Leptin; You, On a Diet; and the cookbook Fix It and Forget It Lightly. I have reviews of them on my other blog - will be moving them over to The Diet Pulpit soon.

    The Sweet Perfection arrived - I've tried in my coffee so far -- it is awesome! Can't wait to get a full review up July 5 after I use it in some recipes

  8. Hi BunnyGirl,
    So you're sick of the ever-changing study results too? Good plan to just stick to the obvious--whole foods, good. Processed foods--not so good. I think its the nuances where a lot of the back and forth happens. But I hate to just throw out the idea of scientific research entirely, so I'm always interested in what scientists have to say. Even though sometimes they're wrong!

    Hi Lady Rose,
    Thanks for all the book recommendations. It occurs to me I'll have to find out how many I can rotate in one panel and how many panels I should have. But it's great to get a ton of recommendations so I can keep them fresh over time.

    And thanks for the update on Sweet Perfection!

  9. 6-10 people.....come on how can we have any confidence in results based on that many people, good or bad. Further, area under the curve which they use does not take rate of absorption into consideration and what about elimination from the body. Anyone else have the, "wow they sure have mastered the obvious with this one"...namely they are good for you and don't leave you needing a nap after eating. A bunch of fancy verbage for what we all, already know.

  10. Hi Anonymous,
    Good point about the small study size and interesting questions, too about the rate of absorption. Still, I thought it was interesting (at least for me) that they're at least starting to explore how effectively antioxidants are actually used in the body. But I agree, I'm not sure how meaningful it all is at this point. Eating lots of fruits and veggies remains the best idea!

  11. I agree with leah and bunny girl about "studies." However, I still get sucked in to the newest and latest "findings" especially if it is something I've felt for a long time (beets are evil!)

    weighty book recommends:

    Frances Kuffel's "Passing for THin"

    "You: on a Diet" (ironically not really a "diet" book)

    "Dr Phil's Ultimate Weight Solution". (I like all the psychology-behind-eating in this book, not really the plan part)

    But Crabby, don't worry about putting these up on your list if you don't want to, I might copy your idea and put up a SS Amazon list too...

  12. Hi Katieo,
    I'm glad I'm not the only one who (a) is a sucker for studies and (b) is convinced Beets are Evil!

    And thanks so much for the recommendations! Do you happen to have an author name on You: on a Diet? Lady Rose recommended it too, but when I searched it wasn't on the first page or two of results so I got bored and wandered off and never found it. Of course, now that it's been double recommended, I'll be a bit more persistent! Later today I'll update.

  13. Another point about using only a few people in a study: like it or not, our bodies work differently. What's good for one person, may not be so good for another.

    For instance, I've noticed my blood sugar levels are better when I have a little protein with my carbs. This isn't the case for other diabetics (gestational or otherwise).

    So maybe some people just absorb antioxidants better than others? It seems possible to me.

  14. Lisa,
    Yeah, that makes total sense! Everything else about our bodies seems to vary from person to person--why would we absorb antioxidants all the same?

  15. An excellent book I'd like to recommend: The Pathway by Laurel Mellin. The book she published before that one, The Solution, is also great. The Solution deals specifically with weight loss; the Pathway deals with all excesses we may indulge in. I like The Pathway a little better because her entire program has developed and evolved over the last 20 years and The Pathway is her most recent work.

  16. In my lifetime, coffee and tea have gone from good for ya, to killers, and back to good for ya more often than I can count. Ditto with about a hundred other consumables. As each new study is published, another, negating that one, is heading to press.

    I can't tell you how relieved I am that I no longer have to pay attention to any of that stuff. Now, I can rest easy, knowing Crabby is on the job.

    Godblessya. :)

  17. I just found your blog through an article on AIM about "accidental calorie burning". I think I'll bookmark it, because I need all the encouragement I can get some days!

    I'll sign up for the google thing, but my blog is on MySpace and too many of them will probably fry my poor brain.

    I haven't made it completely through the book yet, but Diabetes for Dummies--2nd edition has been a good reference on first glance. I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes a couple of months ago, and I'm still in the midst of the "learning curve" for the disease.

    Thanks again for your blog. Everything is so much easier with a sense of humor, isn't it?

  18. My theory is that we were originally fruitivores and that our bodies are actually designed for an almost pure fruit diet. I don't live by this philosophy - I did try it for a while but ended up with the most terrible cravings for other things. But it is what I belief.

    So fruit is good - who care what the researchers say!

  19. Hey Crabby!

    Man, I was about to go blueberry picking this week, there goes that idea... j/k :)

    As far as recommendations go, I really liked the books: "The Portion Teller", "The Okinawan Diet" the "Volumetrics Diet" and Marilu Henner's "Total Health Makeover". I think all health material needs to be taken with a grain of salt (because everyone is different) but I liked the focus of these books...which is portion control and more veggies! They don't preach, offer do able solutions and are fun to read. :)

  20. Hi Barbara,
    Thanks so much for the recommendation!

    I realize that I'll probably need to figure out some sort of system for which books go in rotation when and for how long, and whether to give a bit of preference to "regulars", and all that sort of stuff.

    So in the meantime, there might be a little delay before some of the new recommendations get put in, but I'm definitely copying all these ideas down and saving them for inclusion in the rotation. I may put up a second panel too if people keep giving me lots of great ideas.

    Hi Frank!
    Yes you can trust Crabby to sort it all out! Unless of course the studies say something she doesn't like. If they decide, for example, that chocolate and coffee aren't good for you anymore, she might just "forget" to tell anybody about it.

    Hi Shirley Ann!
    I know what you mean about signing up for all these things--my brain gets fried too!

    Thanks so much for the Diabetes book recommendation. I really appreciate all these ideas. Again, it may be a little while before I get everything in rotation, but I'm getting them all down & they should show up eventually! Thanks for your visit!

  21. Hi Sera!
    Blueberry picking sounds like fun! And thanks so much for the books, I'll get these copied down too. And thanks for letting me know why you like them, too. Maybe some day I'll have to collect a bunch of these recommendations & testimonials into their very own post. (Which, being lazy, I can't help but think would save me writing one!)

  22. I'm with Frank--we're relying on you, Crabby, to keep us healthy with the latest news.

    In fact, I agree with everyone. It was a small study but a study none the less. It just points to variety as the spice of life.

    When I saw the word Kiwi, I thought we were talking about Dawn (author of Ripples on the Lake, folks) but we were talking about the fruit.

    So now I will add kiwi (which I like but am usually too lazy to peel) to my fresh berries.

    Will be on vacation for a week and may be "read only" during that time. But I'll catch up quickly.

    Happy Independence Day to all.


  23. Hi Dawn,
    Sorry, lost you there for a moment in comment moderation never-never land.

    Hmmm, interesting theory about the fruit. Do cream filled apple donuts count as fruit?

    And is chocolate a fruit? If not, I'm afraid a fruit-based diet wouldn't work for me. Oh, well, there's the cheeseburger issue too I suppose. But it's a great idea in theory!

  24. I recommend The Ultimate Fit or Fat by Covert Bailey

  25. Have a great vacation Terrie!

    And it's funny I never even think to buy kiwis (again, the fruits and not the New Zealanders because that wouldn't be legal.) Anyway I do believe kiwi fruit are awfully good for you for some other reason too which I can't remember. But you're right--they do have that rather daunting peel to get through.

  26. Thanks, Half Man,
    I'm really appreciating all of these!

  27. I second the recommendation for Marion Nestle's "What to Eat". I don't agree with everything in it 100%, but she does give a very balanced viewpoint, and if nothing else it encouraged me to look more deeply into things.

    You On a Diet is by Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz (aka Dr. Oz, the guy thats on Oprah all the time). If it helps the ISBN/ASIN is 0743292545.

    As far as fruits go, I buy whatever looks good, same with veggies. Then I read somewhere that ______ is really, really good for you and I go out and buy it, then get tired of eating it and move on to something else for awhile. I'm a sucker for science, but tend to think variety is proably better for me. So I'm a hypocrite I guess.

  28. I guess I have been lucky to not fall into the "recent studies" trap. But yea, any fruits have to be good for you, whether or not they have more antioxidants than others, or whatever. Im seeing a personal trainer right now, and the diet is pretty strict. Im only allowed to eat fruit in the morning or within a half hour of a workout, because fruit has a lot of natural sugar. It sucks, but I guess its working..A book that Ive read that is pretty good is called Skinny Bitch. Some parts are completely CRAZY and the girls that wrote it are completely against eating meat, and all that stuff, but I did find a lot of useful info, and the writing is entertaining!

  29. Noah,
    I love to hear I'm not the only one who runs out and buys huge quantities of the latest miracle fruit or vegetable and then gets really tired of it.

    Thanks for the additional info on books, that's really helpful. I'm thinking whatever weird arbitrary system I adopt for rotation will give extra emphasis to books that more than one reader thinks are worth taking a look at.

    And hi Vanessa,
    Yikes, that fruit restriction thing would make me cranky, which I guess is not saying much since its my natural state!

    Thanks for the tip on Skinny Bitch--I don't mind a bit of Crazy Advice if it's delivered in an entertaining way. I think that one's gonna get short-listed for early inclusion--for one, we need more swear words on the site to get our rating from PG to R!

  30. just stumbled on your blog and i love it. an idea for eating kiwi, fruit not people or birds, cut it in half and eat with a spoon. that way all you need to do is scoop out the good stuff and leave the fuzzy skin. i had a good friend who ate her kiwi like this. i'm glad to see other people with a sense of humor about healthy and what it means. does zucchini bread qualify as a veggie?

  31. Lil' Miss Martha, welcome!

    Excellent idea for eating Kiwis!

    Oh dear. I meant... oh well.

    And any friend of James Thurber is a friend of mine! I think many bloggers have a bit of Walter Mitty in them. "Rich inner lives," let's just say. Thanks for stopping by!

  32. I have some recommendations--The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan--tells you why you should keep eating broccoli and brussel sprouts anyway. (o: Another favorite that I watch any time I want to go to Macdonalds again (for anything other than their Southwest Salad which I can eat my weight in)--Supersize me. And my all time favorite--the Firm--I've been doing it for years and love their newest system more than all that came before.

  33. Hi Jen!
    So Volumetrics is now I think a double recommendation, so that's good to know. And Supersize me is a great idea.

    If you end up stopping back, could you tell me what The Firm is? In my head it's a John Grisham thriller but I'm thinking you mean something entirely different. Does it make you firm, perhaps?

    Thanks so much for stopping by and helping out with Products!

  34. I haven't read all the comments, so I'm not sure if these have been listed or not, but as for books, I've quite liked "Tales from the Scale" and Victoria Moran's "Fit from Within".

  35. Aw, we're talking diet books? Serves me right for not stopping in yesterday. :p

    I bought "Skinny Bitch" from my college bookstore one day, and... I would kinda like that hour of my life back. :p I've got nothing against vegans, but I really hate being preached at like that and I really wish the cover had said something about it being a bunch of vegan propaganda so I could have left it on the shelf. Whatever good advice was in the book, I couldn't take seriously between all the "meat is gross! it will give you cancer and KILL YOU! but more importantly, IT'S GROOOSSS!" bullshit.

    Someone mentioned Covert Bailey. I like Covert Bailey. I should read more of him. :)

  36. Hi Kery,
    Cool, thanks for the recommendations!

    It can be books but also anything else fitness/health related that Amazon sells, so we can have some ads for stuff that's at least recommended by Cranky Fitness readers. Thanks for playing!

    Hi ChickenGirl!
    That's funny about Skinny Bitch--I've got one thumbs up and one thumbs down. Sounds like it could be simultaneously amusing and annoying. I'll have to figure out how to handle mixed reviews in terms of including things. Will probably just throw everything in the mix sooner or later, but keep the stuff with more consensus behind it in the ads for longer or something.

    Thanks again, everyone, for all the suggestions! Keep 'em coming, because I'd like to have lots of choices to rotate through.

    And they don't have to be diet books--they can be other health issues and other products too!

  37. Oh boy...I did a 2 year research project on this antioxidant thing. It was with vitamin E and garlic, so this was really interesting to me...I won't blather on with technical whatsists and whoosits, but I'm always interested to see what foods are high in antioxidants so I can eat more of them...

    The trick with antioxidants is a lot of them benefit your digestive tract and keep your system happy but not very many of them actually get absorbed and used in the body in a way that you can measure and see as useful. It's not enough for them to be in the plant - if your body can't take them up into your blood it's not as effective as it could be healthwise (altho still not half bad...)
    Antioxidants are great - they help your body fight the free radical molcules in the body and quench them before they can damage your cellular processes, DNA replication and all those other systems in your body. They help you stay strong and healthy and better ready to fight disease.
    Personally, they're good for you, so I think eat them any way. Some veggies like onions and garlic DO benefit you. They are measurable in effect of keeping down the oxidative stress in the body...but I can't see how eating fruits and veggies is bad. I certainly wouldn't stay away from healthy food because it just didn't do enough to defend my body...

    And honestly...being in the world of science, I can tell you that likely, next week another study will come out praising the greatness of blueberries. Unless something is really definitive the rush is out there to publish results copiously and often - so you may not be able to measure how things are good for you yet. So unless the study results are from the British Journal of Medicine or Nature or some of the highest impact journals of the world, I wouldn't get too excited about it until a bunch of people in the research field get together and agree on it...cuz we scientists are cranky peoples and love to disprove each other and if a bunch of us actually agree on something, then it may actually be true. :)

    Me? I like the berries. I eat the berries.

  38. Thanks geosomin!
    I love having an actual Scientist come and be so informative!

    I'm with you--someone would have to be very silly indeed to stop eating blueberries because of something like this. And I don't think it really changes the notion that all these fruits and veggies are very good for you.

    I plan to keep trying to get antioxidants from wherever I can, but perhaps instead of trying so hard to find the few best "Superfoods," I'll concentrate more on variety. Which is a tastier approach anyway, as there are only so many servings of broccoli sprouts one can truly enjoy over the course of a week!

  39. Hi Crabby! I know you know what The Firm is now (and Tom Cruise is not featured:)) but here's the website for anyone interested: www.firmdirect.com.

    Another great book I thought of this morning is Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink. It was probably one of the more useful "diet" books I've ever ready (and it's really just a collection of research) and where I first read about Volumetrics.

  40. Thanks so much Jen,
    I really appreciate all the tips!

  41. Yay! I love grapes and Kiwis are OK, but I HATE blueberries! :D

  42. Hi anonymous,
    Don't you love when research all of sudden changes and validates what you want to hear? I like blueberries ok but get tired of them. Go grapes and kiwis!


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