The antioxidant activity of regularly consumed fruit and vegetables reflects their phenolic and vitamin C composition

Free Radic Res. 2002 Feb;36(2):217-33. doi: 10.1080/10715760290006484.


Recent studies are emphasising the importance and putative modes of action of specific flavonoids as bioactive components of the diet in in vivo and in vitro models. Thus, it is important to have a clear idea of the major phenolic families of which fruit and vegetables are comprised and the levels contained therein. Regularly consumed fruit and vegetables of mixed varieties available on the UK market were analysed for the composition of the major individual phenolic components. The total phenolic content (applying the Folin assay) and the vitamin C levels were also determined. The antioxidant capacities of aqueous/methanolic extracts were comparatively assessed using the TEAC (Trolox Equivalent Antioxidant Capacity), the FRAP (Ferric Reducing Ability of Plasma) and ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) assays, which comprise contributions from polyphenols, simple phenols and the ascorbate component. The results were calculated in terms of 100 g fresh weight (FW) uncooked portion sizes. Fruit and vegetables rich in anthocyanins (e.g. strawberry, raspberry and red plum) demonstrated the highest antioxidant activities, followed by those rich in flavanones (e.g. orange and grapefruit) and flavonols (e.g. onion, leek, spinach and green cabbage), while the hydroxycinnamate-rich fruit (e.g. apple, tomato, pear and peach) consistently elicited the lower antioxidant activities. The TEAC, FRAP and ORAC values for each extract were relatively similar and well-correlated with the total phenolic and vitamin C contents. The antioxidant activities (TEAC) in terms of 100 g FW uncooked portion size were in the order: strawberry>> raspberry = red plum >> red cabbage >>>grapefruit = orange > spinach > broccoli > green grape approximately/= onion > green cabbage > pea > apple > cauliflower tomato approximately/= peach=leek > banana approximately/= lettuce.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthocyanins / analysis
  • Antioxidants / analysis*
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Ascorbic Acid / analysis*
  • Chromans / metabolism
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Coumaric Acids / analysis
  • Flavonoids / analysis
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phenols / analysis*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / chemistry
  • Spectrophotometry, Ultraviolet
  • Vegetables / chemistry*


  • Anthocyanins
  • Antioxidants
  • Chromans
  • Coumaric Acids
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • 6-hydroxy-2,5,7,8-tetramethylchroman-2-carboxylic acid