The Power of ORAC
ORAC, which stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, is a testing guideline which measures the total antioxidant power of foods.
Many studies—most notably one by the Agricultural Research Service’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging—has concluded that foods that score high in ORAC may protect cells from oxidative damage.
The Agricultural Research Service’s administrator, Floyd Horn, stated that people may be able to reduce their risk of disease by simply adding high ORAC foods into their diets. The study found that eating plenty of high ORAC foods raised the antioxidant power of human blood by 10 to 25 percent!
Top-scoring fruits (in order of ORAC content) include: Prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, red grapes.
Top-scoring vegetables (in order of ORAC content) include: Kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli flowers, beets, red bell pepper, onion, corn.
The USDA recommends Americans consume 3,000 to 5,000 units of ORAC daily; however, studies show that the average person consumes only 1,200 ORAC units daily.
To accomplish the recommended ORAC intake each day, the USDA recommends 3 to 5 servings of fruit per day and 2 to 4 servings of vegetables per day. However, even consuming these quantities of fruits and vegetables may not be enough: Due to over-processing of most of the foods in the American diet, and by aggressive farming practices, which deplete the nutrient levels of the soil and the food grown in it, even fruit and vegetable aficionados are oftentimes taking in inadequate ORAC levels.
This means that even the health-conscious ORAC consumer would be wise to consider complimenting his or her diet with a high-ORAC supplement.
When choosing a supplement for its ORAC value, consumers need to not only check the ORAC value on the label, but also wherethe ORAC value is coming from. Most manufacturers “boost” the ORAC value with the use of synthetic vitamins, extracts, and herbs; however, synthetics are not easily absorbed by the body—in fact, some are actually toxic to the body—so the high-ORAC claim is of little real benefit.
Moreover, since the establishment of the ORAC values system was based on the testing of real fruits and vegetables, it is faulty science to maintain that a synthetic material has the same benefit as a natural food—especially when it has not been clearly demonstrated.
Hence, the best high-ORAC supplements would list only real foods on the ingredient list—real fruits and vegetables—whose natural, high-ORAC nutrients are easily absorbed and used by the body.
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