The little red berry, the unremitting companion to our Christmas turkey, may be better for us than the accompanying broccoli , US researchers report this week. Scientists at the University of Scranton carried out a comprehensive investigation of the quantity and quality of antioxidants in fruits. The comparison found that cranberries contained the highest quantity of disease-fighting phenols, a type of antioxidant that is thought to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, stroke and heart disease. Although researchers have known for years that cranberries are high in antioxidants, detailed data on their phenol content in comparison to other fruits was unavailable until now, lead researcher Joe A. Vinson said. Vinson measured the total phenol content in each of 19 fruits commonly consumed in the American diet. Gramme for gramme, cranberries had the highest phenol content. On the basis of serving size, cranberries also ranked first, he added. In particular, the phenol content of cranberries was five times that of broccoli, according to the researcher. But he cautions that you may not want to ignore broccoli. It and other cruciferous veggies contain sulforaphane, a chemical that has been shown in recent studies to be better at fighting certain kinds of cancer than other food chemicals. Vinson and his associates are now conducting animal studies to determine if the high antioxidant levels of cranberries protect against the development of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, a condition that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Vinson commented that the researchers eventually plan to conduct human studies to determine if supplements of the fruit would offer heart protection. The cranberry is one of North America's three native fruits that are commercially harvested. The study is due to appear in the November 19 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a journal of the American Chemical Society. The study appeared in the Web edition of the journal on Oct. 3.