If you’re thinking of eating berries for their dietary fiber content, elderberries, loganberries, blackberries, and raspberries will surely top your list. If you’re planning to increase your vitamin intake, blackberries will give you the most vitamin A while raspberries will give you the most folate (vitamin B9). For vitamin C, you should go with strawberries, cranberries for vitamin E, and blackberries for vitamin K.
But if you’re thinking of eating berries for their antioxidant content, you may need to replace some of your favorite berries. The two most important antioxidants in berries are phenolic compounds and anthocyanins and both of these are potent protectors against oxidative stress. Find out which of these deliciously juicy berries have the highest antioxidant content and are best for warding off oxidative stress.
#1 Aronia Berries
You may know of chokeberry as aronia, one of the most globally commercialized types of berries. You can find various kinds of products containing aronia, either as juice, as extract in powdered form, or as an ingredient in supplements. And for good reason. If you were to compare the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of common berries, aronia would easily top the list.
ORAC is one way to measure how effective an antioxidant is. The reason why aronia berry has the highest ORAC rating compared to other berries is that it’s simply packed with phenolic compounds and anthocyanins, two of the most potent types of antioxidants.
A 100-gram serving of these dark-colored berries will give you more than 2,000 mg of phenolic compounds and more than 200 mg of anthocyanins. There are even aronia berry juice products available on the market that can give you more 4,000 mg of phenolic compounds and more than 3,000 mg of anthocyanins per liter. And by the way, it’s alright to eat dried aronia berries – recent studies show that unlike other berries which you’re supposed to eat fresh, you can actually get more antioxidants from dried aronia berries.
In general, berries are great sources of naturally derived vitamins C, A, and E. What’s great about these three vitamins is that they also act as antioxidants. And if it’s vitamin C that you need, a hundred gram serving of blackcurrants can give you close to thrice the recommended daily value, ranging from 120-215 milligrams.
Next to aronia berries, blackcurrants have the second highest content of phenolic compounds when compared to other berries like strawberries or cranberries. More importantly, when it comes to anthocyanin content, blackcurrants top the list, at more than 1,700 milligrams of anthocyanins per 100-gram serving of the fruit.
Blackcurrants actually contain 2 types of anthocyanins. These are cyanidins and delphinidins, and both types of antioxidants are potent scavengers of free radicals in the body. Because of this extremely high anthocyanin content, blackcurrants also get a very high ORAC rating, just second to aronia berries, and slightly higher than blackberries.
Blueberries contain five different types of anthocyanins such as cyanidins, delphinidins, peonidins, malvidins, and petunidins. This is perhaps one of the reasons why blueberries have been found to have so many varied health benefits – each type of antioxidant actually acts differently and works to protect our bodies in a different way.
The anthocyanins and flavonols found in blueberries have been shown to help keep our bones healthy. Blueberries are also great for patients suffering from diabetes because the antioxidants found in blueberries also help fight against glucose-induced oxidative stress and also improve insulin sensitivity.
Blueberries are also great for preventing and fighting cancer. Blueberry antioxidants help protect our DNA from free radical-induced damage, thus lowering the chances that damaged DNA will form abnormal and cancerous cells.
Aside from containing a lot of anthocyanins, blueberries also pack more than 500 mg of phenolic compounds per 100-gram serving, making it one of the top three berries with the highest phenolic antioxidant content. If you’d like to get yourself some fresh blueberries, now would be the best time since blueberry peak seasons starts mid-May.
Although the phenolic antioxidant content of blackberries is not as high as that of aronia berries or blackcurrants, it’s still significantly high at 248 mg per 100-gram serving. Nevertheless, blackberries still have a very high ORAC rating at 55.7 μmol of antioxidants per gram of fresh weight. That’s because blackberries contain a lot of anthocyanidins at 949.4 mg per 100 g dry weight.
However, similar to other berries, blackberries are also seasonal so many blackberry products are either processed, canned, or frozen. Unfortunately, this processing causes some of the anthocyanin content of blackberries to leach out. If you can, try to catch these luscious berries while they’re in season and fresh.
Note also that the amount of antioxidants present in these berries may differ based on their environmental growth conditions, genetic differences, as well as their levels of maturity when they were harvested. For blackberries, their flavors peak when they are fully mature and when their skin color has changed to dull black.
Most people don’t really think of grapes as a berry, but if we were to go by the strict definition of berries, grapes would make it to the cut. Long before other berries were researched and found to have high antioxidant content, people already knew how healthy grapes are.
In fact, grapes are considered as the one responsible for the phenomenon called French paradox. Looking at the traditional diet of the French, one would wonder how they can have such low rates of coronary and heart diseases and even have long lifespans. Scientists say that wine consumption is the reason behind the paradox.
Red wines made from pressed grapes contain a lot of antioxidants, from 1,000 to 4,000 mg of phenolic compounds per liter, and are thus extremely healthy. The other reason why wine contains such high concentrations of phenolic compounds is that these are the same phenolic compounds that define the mouthfeel of wines.
Moreover, the red coloring of wines is mainly due to its anthocyanin content. In fruits, anthocyanins are the ones responsible for the fruit’s skin color. The darker the color, the higher the concentration of anthocyanins. So, if you were to choose your wine based on color alone, go for the ones that are darker and you can be sure they’ll be healthier, too.