By Carol Johnson

Apple juice is one of nature's healthiest, most enjoyable means of rehydrating the body. And for years people have thought that clearer the juice, the cleaner and healthier it is. But a recent study showed that cloudy apple juice can contain more than five times as much antioxidants as clear apple juice. Which translates to terrific health benefits for your body.

Most fruits and vegetables get their color from a family of antioxidants called polyphenols. According to many research studies, those chemicals contribute to a wide variety of health benefits ranging from improved brain function to a reduction in the risk of heart disease and cancer. In general, the stronger the color of the fruit or vegetable, the higher the concentration of polyphenols. And the skin and seeds of most fruits and vegetables are even higher than the pulp or juice. That's why cloudy apple juice is better-because the process of clearing it up removes all the solid matter, which is where the greatest health benefits are.

In recent years, researchers have found that apples can reduce the occurrence of colon and breast cancer, and that people who eat apples often have a lower risk of lung cancer. Although further research is needed, scientists usually believe that the benefits are the result of the polyphenols and other antioxidants in apples. Antioxidants help the body's immune system by cleaning out free radicals, which can damage cells by altering DNA or enzymes. Such damage is what leads to cancer and other diseases people are prone to as they get older.

Jan Oszmianski, the lead author of the new study, says that eating whole apples is the absolute best thing to do if you're looking to get the most polyphenols from your fruit. But if you're drinking the juice, the cloudy is much better than the clear. Oszmianski, who studies fruit and vegetable processing at the Agricultural University of Wroclaw in Poland, provided with his study a thorough summary of the difference in antioxidant activity between the two types of juices.

Oszmianski's team found that the cloudy juice was 1.5 to 1.8 times more effective than clear juice in terms of supplying antioxidants. The resulting numbers from the study might even be higher, Oszmianski says, because the samples used in the study were made in the lab rather than using commercial apple juice. Researchers used a centrifuge to make clear juice from cloudy juice in the lab, whereas commercial clarification processes use enzymes and gelatin, which reduce polyphenol content. The processes involved in clarifying juice result in commercially prepared clear juices having only one-tenth of the antioxidant power of cloudy juice.

"In Poland we have only clear juices," says Oszmianski. "It is a very big problem for me, and I'm trying to change this." Manufacturers usually think that the public will prefer the prettier clear juice, and retailers prefer the clear variety because it has a longer shelf life. But Oszmianski hopes that his study will change opinions and make more manufacturers think about packaging cloudy juice.

Other foods besides apples that contain polyphenols, include cantaloupe, berries, pears, grapes, broccoli, cabbage, and plums, as well as red wine, green tea, olive oil, and chocolate. So fill your plate with all of those healthy, tasty foods, and top off your meal with a delicious glass of apple juice-the cloudier the better.