Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ask-A-Nutritionist (Andy)

Q: Pomegranate versus Blueberries which gives the biggest antioxidant bang-for-the-buck? - Andy

A: Hi Andy,

Blueberries and pomegranates have become one of today’s most popular fruits, and it is no wonder. Both of these fruits are packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants can help prevent free radical damage that can damage DNA and increase the risk for heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants are also believed to lower levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein)- the “bad” cholesterol, which can contribute to cardiovascular disease.

Blueberries are particularly high in anthocyanins, a potent antioxidant. They were ranked the highest compared to 40 other fruits in terms of antioxidant power, according to a study done at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts university. Blueberries are also a good source of vitamin C and fiber.

Pomegranates are an excellent source of polyphenols, another type of antioxidant. In fact, pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than most other fruit juices, red wine, or green tea. Pomegranates have ellagic acid as well. Ellagic acid may play a role in cancer cell death and may prevent certain carcinogens from binding to your cells. But of course, as with all fruit juices, limit your intake. Those sugary calories can add up much more quickly than you might notice.

And now for the ultimate question: which gives the most bang for your buck? Let’s focus on antioxidant value. The oxygen radical absorbance capacity, or ORAC, is a measure of the amount of antioxidants in a particular food. According to the USDA, Pomegranate juice has an ORAC of 2,341 units per 100 grams. Blueberries have an ORAC value of 6,552 units per 100 grams. Blueberry juice has an ORAC value of 2906 units per 100 grams. Based on these numbers alone, blueberries may seem like the clear winner. Pomegranates also have limitations because they are seasonal. Blueberries, on the other hand, can be found fresh or in the frozen aisle at your local supermarket. Both are great options for getting a healthy dose of antioxidants.

This does not mean that you should ignore pomegranates completely. Pomegranates can add more dimension to your diet while supplying higher levels of different antioxidants that blueberries may not have very much of. If you cannot get a hold of fresh pomegranates, beat the heat with a refreshing antioxidant drink made with three ounces of pomegranate juice and ½ cup sparkling water.

Rachel S. Beller, MS, RD
Beller Nutritional Institute, LLC

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