Foods That Unlock the Power of Antioxidants

In 1993, a division of the National Institutes of Health developed a system for determining the value of specific foods against disease. That system was called ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). It measures the amount of free radicals that a particular food can absorb. The diseases they studied all related to aging, particularly Alzheimer’s Disease. The results benefit all of us as they give us a list of foods that encourage healthy aging, increased vitality and reduced disability.

Antioxidants: generous molecules
Free radicals form as pollution inside your body. This pollution is caused from metabolism. Metabolism is the way your body converts food into energy. The more energy you produce, the more pollution in the form of free radicals you generate.

Energy is created from the carbohydrates, protein and fats in foods. Foods also contain antioxidants. Antioxidants donate molecules to balance, neutralize and quench free radicals. They are very generous that way! They will keep donating until they are completely spent.

Just imagine the efficiency built into whole foods: the macronutrients create energy and the antioxidants in the same foods neutralize the waste. A healthy food will quench as many free radicals as it makes. A really good food will quench more free radicals than you make metabolizing the food. You will feel better today and healthier tomorrow if you eat healthy, whole foods.

Whole foods – the good stuff!
All foods contain antioxidants. Even “junk” foods contain some antioxidants; they just don’t contain enough to improve your health. Junk foods create more pollution than their ORAC can quench and you are left imbalanced. Some high ORAC beverages do the same thing.

Real antioxidants come from real foods. Certain whole foods will concentrate more antioxidants and they are associated with longevity and vitality. For instance, ginkgo biloba has been associated with a sharp mind and longevity for thousands of years. The fruit from the ginkgo tree has numerous concentrated antioxidants that have an affinity for your brain and heart. You can benefit from this rare fruit by taking a whole food concentrate supplement of ginkgo.

Berries are another superb way of getting the high ORAC antioxidants you need. Whole berry concentrates, such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries provide nutrients and antioxidants needed for healthy metabolism. Rare berries, such as wolfberry (goji), acai drupes, and terminalia berries also provide a boost of antioxidant power, BUT ONLY IF THEY ARE WHOLE FRUITS!

ORAC can be artificially enhanced without adding to its ability to improve your health. If manufacturers know how the ORAC test is performed, they can literally “cheat” and improve the ORAC score by “folding” the antioxidants. This increases the reading – the ORAC score – without improving the benefit to the customer. The typical, folded extracts may have a high ORAC value in the laboratory, but inside your body these beautiful fruits have been turned into something like Frankenstein’s monster! Rather than being good for you they may actually make you sick. That’s why it’s so important that your antioxidants come from whole food sources. Remember, real antioxidants come from real foods.

Eat whole foods. Make sure you have every color in the rainbow included in your diet because different antioxidants come with different colors. Look for whole food supplements to augment your diet. Whole foods and whole food supplements will improve your metabolism, reduce toxicity, increase vitality and improve your health!

Top-Scoring
Fruits & Vegetables
ORAC units per 100 grams
(about 3 ½ ounces)
Fruits Vegetables
Prunes 5770 Kale 1770
Raisins 2830 Spinach 1260
Blueberries 2400 Brussels sprouts 980
Blackberries 2036 Alfalfa sprouts 930
Strawberries 1540 Broccoli flowers 890
Raspberries 1220 Beets 840
Plums 949 Red bell pepper 710
Oranges 750 Onion 450
Red grapes 739 Corn 400
Cherries 670 Eggplant 390
Kiwi fruit 602
Grapefruit, pink 483


Source: United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service Website. Available at High-ORAC Foods May Slow Aging / February 8, 1999 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Accessed July 5, 2007.