Let ORACs Keep You Healthy

When I ask my patients how many ORACs they take in a day, they give me a kind of lost look.  One patient humorously asked me once, “Is that some kind of fruit?” Well, yes and no.  ORACs are in fruit – but they’re not a food per se.  Let me share with you what I tell my patients about the ORAC value of foods and its importance to your health.

What’s ORAC and Why Is It In My Food?

ORAC is the acronym for Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity – an antioxidant measurement system developed by researchers at the National Institutes of Health around 1990. Research out of Tufts University completed in 1999 revealed that “eating plenty of high-ORAC fruits and vegetables, such as spinach and blueberries, may help slow the processes associated with aging in both body and brain.”

ORAC pertains to the amount of antioxidant value a particular food has – higher ORAC levels means your food has a higher free radical fighting capability.  It is thought that there is an even exchange of free radicals and ORACs – i.e. 1 ORAC destroys 1 free radical.

What are free radicals? Well, they’re part of a chemical reaction that goes on in our bodies all the time – it’s what turns the oxygen and food we intake into energy.  Free radicals steal electrons from whatever cellular tissue they encounter.  The loss of a cell’s electrons causes it to oxidize making it unstable and easily damaged. Free radical damage causes oxidative stress which is thought to be the reason behind aging and the onset of age-related diseases like cancer, Alzheimer disease, Parkinson’s and heart disease.

Antioxidants present in the foods you eat, fruit, vegetables, spices, nuts fight the damage that free radicals do and prevents damage to cellular DNA. They keep the telomeres, the little protective caps at the end of the chromosome, intact so that DNA does not get damaged.    Therefore, we want to eat a diet that is rich in ORAC/antioxidant values to be able to slow down aging and avoid disease by preventing telomere breakdown and cellular DNA damage.

How Much ORAC Should I Have A Day?

The USDA says adult men and women should have about a 4,200 to 5,400 ORAC level per day.  However, this amount may be a little conservative and low if you are under a lot of stress and/or have a chronic physical ailment you are dealing with, do not sleep well, or are exposed to a lot of environmental toxins (smoking, job related, pollution).

I recommend getting about 10,000 ORAC a day though there is some controversy amongst ORAC researchers as to how much ORAC level in our foods is beneficial.  Some say even as high as 20-30,000.

What Are Some Good ORAC Level Foods?    

You can get a beneficial daily ORAC level by eating several servings of fruits, vegetables a day and using common kitchen spices in your food regularly! The following are some of the highest ORAC value fruits and vegetables per 100 grams which is equal to 1 average fruit, or about ½ cup, or about 24 teaspoons. Spices listed are per 1/5 teaspoon.

Note:  Some research sources of ORAC levels differ in their evaluation of how much ORAC certain foods contain.  These are common listings for these foods.

Prunes = 8059 Kale = 1800 Cinnamon (1/5 tsp) = 2674
Raisins = 3406 Spinach = 1260 Oregano (1/5 tsp) = 2001
Blueberries = 2400 Brussels sprouts = 980 Turmeric (1/5 tsp) = 1593
Blackberries = 2036 Alfalfa sprouts = 930 8 oz red wine = 9000
Strawberries = 4302 Broccoli flowers = 890 Wolfberries = 25,300
Dark purple plums = 4800 Red bell pepper = 710 Cumin seed (1/5 tsp) = 768
Oranges = 1819 CoffeeBerry extract = 15,000 Cashew nuts = 1948
Red grapes = 1837 Raw spinach = 1260 Pecans = 17,900
Cherries = 3747 Apple = 3224 Cocoa powder (1 tsp) = 3372
Green tea = 5000 Cranberries = 4500 Artichokes = 9400

By this list, you can see that if you stick to the FDA’s recommended 5-7 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, or if you drink several cups of green tea or cocoa a day, you will be well-covered in getting your ORAC value from your foods.

Keep in mind, however, that these ORAC levels are measured from fruits and vegetables still on the vine/tree, plant before cooking.  Certain cooking methods can destroy perhaps almost half of ORAC levels.  Try to eat fresh organic produce, steaming your vegetables, and eat your fruits raw to get the highest antioxidant capacity out of them.  Although some flash frozen vegetables and fruits probably still have some antioxidant ORAC values left intact, the processing of these foods likely has decreased their values.  Perhaps, soon, the USDA will require ORAC value labels on all produce and other items.   In fact, I have seen this labeling on some foods.
Antioxidants are necessary to our healthy well-being.  They fight free radicals and premature aging and its diseases and boost our immune system.  Make the most of nature’s gift of antioxidants by being sure to get enough of them in your daily diet to ensure your good health!

Stay Well,

Dr. Mark Rosenberg, M.D.


About Dr. Mark Rosenberg

Dr. Mark A. Rosenberg, MD Dr. Mark Rosenberg received his doctorate from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1988 and has been involved with drug research since 1991. With numerous certifications in several different fields of medicine, psychology, healthy aging and fitness, Dr. Rosenberg has a wide breadth of experience in both the public and private sector with particular expertise in both the mechanism of cancer treatment failure and in treating obesity. He currently is researching new compounds to treat cancer and obesity, including receiving approval status for an investigational new drug that works with chemotherapy and a patent pending for an oral appetite suppressant. He is currently President of the Institute for Healthy Aging, Program Director of the Integrative Cancer Fellowship, and Chief Medical Officer of Rose Pharmaceuticals. His work has been published in various trade and academic journals. In addition to his many medical certifications, he also personally committed to physical fitness and is a certified physical fitness trainer.
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