According to a study from Tufts University in Boston, prunes may also help slow the aging process in both the body and brain. The study ranked the antioxidant value of commonly eaten fruits and vegetables using an analysis called ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity). Prunes topped the list with more than twice the antioxidant capacity as other high-scoring fruits such as blueberries and raisins.
ORAC is a test tube analysis that measures the total antioxidant power of foods and other chemical substances. Early findings suggest that this same antioxidant activity translates to animals, protecting cells and their components from oxidative damage.
"If these studies are borne out in further research, young and middle-aged people may be able to reduce their risk of diseases of aging - including senility - simply by adding high antioxidant foods to their diets," said Floyd P. Horn, administrator of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, in Beltsville, Md.
The role of fruits and vegetables in health promotion and disease prevention may also be related to nutrients, other than the vitamins, minerals and fiber, found in these plant-based foods. In addition to well-known antioxidant vitamins A and C and beta-carotene, there are over 1,800 other biologically active compounds that have been identified in foods. Research is just beginning to identify these nutrients and to describe their activity in the human body; however, many are believed to offer the protective benefits of antioxidants.
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