Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Myth: Acai berries are an antioxidant superfood, so I don’t need any other type of berry in my diet.

Answer: BUSTED!

Antioxidants are good for the body because they inhibit oxidation, which can cause damage to your cells. Some of the symptoms of oxidation include aging, wrinkles, other skin disorders, mental impairments, cancer, coronary artery disease and arthritis, among others.

Fruits and vegetables contain many beneficial antioxidants. Berries are among the best sources for these cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Acai berries get a lot of hype for being a superfood; and they are wonderful! There are many other berries, however, that are also great sources of antioxidants.
berries in a row

One way scientists measure the benefits of an antioxidant-rich food is to measure its Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC). This is a measure of how well the food absorbs free radicals. Here is a breakdown of common berries and their ORAC load (measured in µmol/g):

  • Strawberries: 260
  • Boysenberries: 350
  • Blackberries: 510
  • Cranberries: 520
  • Pomegranates: 690
  • Red Raspberries: 270-530
  • Black Raspberries: 500-1,640
  • Blueberries: 320-870
  • Acai: 1,840-3,100

As you can see, all of these berries have a high ORAC value and they are all beneficial. However, scientists also say that the ORAC value of foods can be misleading. This is because some antioxidants, like anthocyanins in blueberries, may not be well absorbed by the body. Even though the ORAC value may be very high, your body might not be able to absorb it well, and therefore not receive the expected benefits. Contrarily, some foods are not tested on the ORAC scale, like broccoli, but it contains a powerful antioxidant booster. So, be leery of fad diets and fad foods because often times you can get the same nutrition from other foods without paying the high prices of a fad item. Acai berries are great, but so are many other berries that you can find locally and fresh at a lower cost. Besides, we all know that variety is an important part of our daily diets, so try different kinds of berries, and make your plate colorful!

Check your local Farmer’s Markets for fresh, ripe, in-season berries near you. They are great places to find inexpensive, locally-grown berries.

Visit for nutrition facts on a variety of berries.

Contributors: Erin Plumberg, KU Medical Center & Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

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