Snack foods like popcorn and breakfast cereals contain surprisingly large amounts of polyphenols, healthy antioxidants that help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, US researchers say.
Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania have found that whole grain products, usually prized for their fiber content, have comparable antioxidants per gram to fruits and vegetables.
The study, which is the first of its kind to assess the total antioxidant quantity in whole grains and snack foods, said that whole grain cereals with the highest amounts of antioxidants are made with wheat, corn, oats and rice cereals. Per serving, raisin bran has the highest amount of antioxidants (because of the raisins), according to the study.
Whole grain flours are also very high in antioxidants, followed by whole grain snacks, which have slightly less. Of snacks, popcorn has the highest amount of the beneficial chemicals.
“Early researchers thought the fibre was the active ingredient for these benefits in whole grains, the reason why they may reduce the risk of cancer and coronary heart disease,” said Dr. Joe Vinson, who headed the study, in a news release. “But recently, polyphenols emerged as more important,” he added.
Polyphenols are also found in many fruits and vegetables as well as in walnuts, tea leaves, and olives and are beneficial as they eliminate cell-damaging free radicals.