Dietary antioxidants widely found in fruits and vegetables may serve the task of reducing oxidative damage in humans induced by free radicals and reactive oxygen species under 'oxidative stress' conditions. The aim of this work is to develop a simple, low-cost, sensitive, and diversely applicable indirect spectrophotometric method for the determination of total antioxidant capacity of several plants. The method is based on the oxidation of antioxidants with cerium(IV) sulfate in dilute sulfuric acid at room temperature. The Ce(IV) reducing capacity of the sample is measured under carefully adjusted conditions of oxidant concentration and pH such that only antioxidants and not other organic compounds would be oxidized. The spectrophotometric determination of the remaining Ce(IV) was performed after completion of reaction with antioxidants. Quercetin and gallic acid were used as standards for flavonoids and phenolic acids, respectively, and results of antioxidant measurements were reported as trolox equivalents. The developed procedure was successfully applied to the assay of total antioxidant capacity due to simple compounds such as trolox, quercetin, gallic acid, ascorbic acid, catechin, naringin, naringenin, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid, and p-coumaric acid, and due to phenolic acids and flavonoids in the arieal parts of nettle (Urtica Dioica L.). Blank correction of significantly absorbing plant extracts at 320 nm could be made with the aid of spectrophotometric titration. Plant selection was made in respect to high antioxidant content, and extraction was made with water. The proposed method was reproducible, and the trolox equivalent antioxidant capacities (TEAC coefficients) of the tested antioxidant compounds were correlated to those found by reference methods such as ABTS and CUPRAC. Since the TEAC coefficients found with the proposed method of naringin-naringenin and rutin-catechin pairs were close to each other, this Ce(IV)-based assay probably caused the simultaneous hydrolysis of favonoid glycosides to the corresponding aglycones and their subsequent oxidation such that the hydrolysis products exhibed antioxidant capacities roughly proportional the number of -OH groups contained in a molecule. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V All rights reserved.