Which Is the Antioxidant Champ: Red Cabbage or Blueberries?

You are scanning the produce aisle for healthy veggies, and your gaze falls upon blueberries and red cabbage. Both glow with the deep blue and purple colors that signal nutritious eating. Both are delicious. Which do you choose?

Let’s tally up the scorecard. Red cabbage holds the pocketbook edge, perhaps, as less costly. It is a low-calorie choice that you can find in the grocery store all year. Red cabbage has another plus going: nutritionists applaud it as a good source of vitamins, manganese and potassium.

Red cabbage contains plant compounds that may be cancer fighters. The compounds, which are found in other cruciferous veggies, are called glucosinolates. A serving of red cabbage provides 85 percent of your daily vitamin C and 42 percent of the vitamin K you need. That serving also meets 20 percent of your daily need for vitamin A and slightly less than 10 percent of B6.

All of this is good stuff, and red cabbage looks like an excellent selection.

But if you are shopping for a heavy dose of antioxidants, the small container of blueberries comes in as the hands-down winner. A Department of Agriculture analysis of the nutrient values of fruits and vegetables declares blueberries far outstrip raw red cabbage in antioxidants.

Blueberries are a dynamite package of five different kinds of parent anthocyanin compounds, the antioxidant plant pigments that produce those gorgeous purple and blue hues in veggies. They also boast dozens of derivatives as well as many other beneficial compounds. Nutritionists say the great variety of nutrients found in blueberries probably produces a wider range of medicinal benefits.

All these different disease-fighters work together in a mysterious synergy to produces healthful benefits. Some studies suggest that blueberries may boost memory and help to inhibit some chronic diseases. Other research indicates the berry may improve insulin sensitivity.

Another study showed the very special composition of blueberries worked its magic on blood pressure. Other fruits and plant extracts have not produced the results seen in the study published in The Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That research indicated blueberries may lower blood pressure. Half of 48 post-menopausal women ages 45 to 65 with high blood pressure ate the equivalent of a cup of blueberries daily for eight weeks. The other half consumed a placebo.

Nitric oxide levels increased significantly in the blueberry eaters. Nitric oxide is involved in relaxing and widening blood vessels. Also, those who ate the blueberry equivalent saw an average. 5.1 percent decrease in systolic blood pressure and a 6.3 percent decrease in diastolic blood pressure. Those who ate the placebo saw no changes.

Tip: If you cook red cabbage, briefly steam it. Cooking breaks down those lovely glucosinolates and anthocyanins. Nutritionists say eating red cabbage raw is the way to go.

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