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Why Fruits and Vegetables May Be Even Healthier Than You Think

You probably feel pretty virtuous when you bite into a crisp, red apple, or choose a plate of steaming broccoli over a bowl of French fries - and for good reason. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of phytochemicals, compounds that are believed to lower the risk of certain diseases. Despite the many well known fruit and vegetable benefits, it turns out that scientists may have underestimated the level of antioxidant activity in many fresh fruits and vegetables. A recent study shows that the levels of antioxidants in fresh produce may be significantly higher than previously thought.

Fruit and Vegetables Benefits: The Importance of Polyphenols
Fruits and vegetables are rich in a group of natural compounds known as polyphenols. These plant-based compounds have strong antioxidant activity which may help to offset some of the cell damage that occurs due to cellular oxidation. This oxidation activity leads to free radical formation which is believed to play a role in the aging process and may increase the risk of certain diseases.

Levels of Antioxidants in Fruits and Vegetables: How Are They Measured?
According to a recent study published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, levels of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables may be up to five times higher than previously thought. To measure polyphenol levels in fruits and vegetables, scientists have characteristically used an extraction method to remove the antioxidant-rich polyphenols. As it turns out this extraction method fails to quantify the higher levels of non-extractable polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables. Researchers believe these may be up to five times higher than the ones they've previously been able to extract.

Fortunately, researchers now have a way to measure the levels of antioxidants from polyphenols they couldn't detect before. By using a methanol and sulfuric acid mixture, they can now extract and quantify these polyphenols which are trapped in the cell walls of fruits and vegetables. These "missing" polyphenols appear to be many times greater than what's been previously described which means levels of antioxidant activity in common fruits and vegetables may be significantly higher than previously reported.

Fruit and Vegetable Benefits: Do These More Difficult to Extract Polyphenols Have the Same Health Benefits?
It appears that they have similar effects to the more readily accessible polyphenols which means fruit and vegetable health benefits may be even greater than previously recognized. Each delicious bite of apple or spoonful of greens may carry with it even more power to prevent disease.

Fruit and Vegetables Benefits: The Bottom Line?
There's now even more reason to take advantage of fruit and vegetable benefits by adding more produce to the grocery cart. Where else are you going to get so much natural disease protection along with great taste for so little money?

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