ORAC values are the most common standard of measuring the antioxidant capacity of fruits and vegetables.
ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity. This standard is just one of many ways to measure the antioxidant content of foods. This value has been adopted by the US Department of Agriculture and has come to be generally accepted as some kind of "official" standard. However, ORAC numbers don't give you the whole picture; although they can be useful, they can be misleading as well. I'll explain how that's so.
ORAC values measure the time an antioxidant takes to react to free radicals, as well as the amount of antioxidants in the specific food. It combines these elements into one measurement.
Foods with a higher ORAC value, in general, have a greater antioxidant potential than those with low values. The foods that tend to rank the highest in ORAC values are fruits with bright pigmentation: berries, red grapes, cherries and apples are some examples.
The ORAC table is not the be-all and end-all of measuring antioxidant capacity. One thing you have to keep in mind is that there are thousands of phytonutrients (plant nutrients) that scientists have not yet been able to identify or isolate, and thus can't even be measured. This means that there is no way to completely assess the full nutritional and antioxidant benefit of any given fruit or vegetable using the ORAC chart.
Companies play number games with ORAC values. The main problem with the ORAC table is that antioxidants can't be truly evaluated using a set of numbers. It's also easy to manipulate the figures to make one food look more potent than another. You can use different sets of measurements — either dry weight, liquid measures, or typical serving sizes to make the numbers reflect different goals.
Using different types of measurements can change ORAC scores dramatically. As you can see in the table to the right, prunes appear to have a much higher antioxidant capacity than plums. The truth is that they're the same fruit, and a prune has no more antioxidant potential than the plum from which it was dried. The same holds true for raisins as compared to red grapes; it's the same fruit, one just has the water weight removed, so it looks to be higher in antioxidant content.
It's important to remember that there is a lot more to measuring a food's antioxidant capacity than the ORAC table. For instance, the values listed in the tables only apply to water-soluble antioxidants, not fat-soluble ones, like some of the carotenoids.
Variety Counts as Much as Quantity. As you will learn from browsing through this site, there are many different types of antioxidants. Even among similar antioxidant fruits, the specific types of antioxidants found in acai berries are different from those in mangosteen or goji berries. Ideally, you want many different types of antioxidants as much as you want a huge quantity of any particular one.
It's important to eat a variety of healthy foods, not only for their antioxidant content, but for their other nutritional properties as well. So don't get hooked into the ORAC table numbers. Make sure to eat lots of different fruits and vegetables to get a wide variety of antioxidants, and use superfoods and antioxidant fruit juices like those you'll find recommended throughout this website to give you all the antioxidants you need.
Don't take ORAC numbers too seriously.
"Superfoods" are specialized whole foods with an extremely high concentration of nutrients. They typically rank high in ORAC values, since they're also extremely rich in antioxidants. Some of the most popular foods used to create superfood products include:
These superfoods are often combined with each other and other valuable nutrients such as probiotics and enzymes to make superfood products that pack in many times the nutritional content of ordinary fruits and vegetables.
Superfood products are so easy to add to your daily diet because the serving sizes are very small (usually about a tablespoon or two). At the same time, they contain the full spectrum of phytonutrients that are in the source. There are many great reasons why you should use superfood products.
For more general information on antioxidants:
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