5 Antioxidant-Rich Fruits that Grow Anywhere

Always riper and more delectable than store-bought varieties, homegrown fruits offer superior flavor and nutrition. Try growing these five antioxidant-rich fruits in your garden.

| March/April 2013

Alpine strawberries

Alpine strawberries offer intense flavor, can grow in almost any region of the country and make nice edging plants.

Photo By iStock

Although they are very well-equipped to defend themselves, our bodies’ cells are under constant attack from free radicals—unstable molecules that damage cells and DNA, potentially leading to chronic illnesses such as high cholesterol, vision loss, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Free radicals come from a variety of sources—in particular air pollution, exposure to pesticides, cigarette smoke and excess alcohol consumption—but thankfully, we are not without our defenses against these free-ranging marauders. Thousands of substances naturally found in fruits and vegetables act as antioxidants, combating the damage of free radicals.

It’s important to note than an antioxidant is not just a substance but a chemical property, according to Harvard’s School of Public Health. Some substances that act as an antioxidant in one situation may not behave the same way in another. This may be why so many studies find antioxidant supplements to be ineffective. Another reason may be that the antioxidants need to remain within a natural, complementary network of chemicals in order to fend off free radicals. Studies that have investigated the benefits of antioxidants “don’t provide strong evidence that antioxidant supplements have a substantial impact on disease,” according to Harvard’s health team.

While supplements aren’t a sure bet, study after study has shown that real, whole foods have reliable antioxidant properties. Fruits are high on the list of foods chock-full of beneficial antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and related carotenoids, selenium, manganese, glutathione, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, phytoestrogens and more.

If you’ve never or rarely tasted homegrown fruits, you’re missing out on some real treats. Commercial fruit varieties are bred and selected to bear uniformly and heavily, to withstand jostling and other traumas of shipping, and then to hold up in storage as long as possible. Many are doused with toxic pesticides during the growing season, harvested underripe, then dipped in fungicide to delay spoilage. Homegrown fruits, on the other hand, can be harvested at the peak moment of ripeness. And when you grow fruits in your yard, you can select varieties that don’t need pesticides.

The fruits described here are all easy to grow in most parts of the United States, and all rank especially high in antioxidant content. Growing your own fruits organically will arm you with important defenses against free radicals, but you’ll also have the luxury of enjoying peak flavor and nutrition, sans chemical pesticides and herbicides.

elderberry, echinacea, bee hive


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