The ORAC Index

I was very interested in the concept of Superfoods at one point, and spent a lot of time researching the topic. It seems that we are always looking for that magic food that if you eat enough of will help us live longer and look younger. So many foods have been labelled as Superfoods, but how do we differentiate among them? I don’t have the answer, but……

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I came across something called the ORAC index. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbence Capacity.  Phew!  Basically it’s a way of measuring antioxidant capacities of biological samples – in our case FOOD, in a lab setting. 

Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, so an antioxidant is supposed to prevent the production of free radicals by inhibiting oxidation. Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals and enzymes that are supposed to help prevent the development of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, arthritis and other debilitating conditions.

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The United States Department of Agriculture produced indexes of foods, but in 2012 withdrew these, because they could not prove in a real life environment, that a biological link between ORAC and biological changes existed.  I think I’ve explained that correctly, please comment if you can help with this.  So basically, the ORAC index is not to be used, but if we did use it, we could see that the top ten Superfoods as listed on the USDA ORAC index are:

Prunes, Small Red Beans, Wild Blueberries, Red Kidney Beans, Pinto beans, Cranberries, Blueberries (cultivated), Artichoke hearts, Raw unprocessed cocoa beans, Blackberries, followed by the next ten :

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Raspberries, Strawberries, Red delicious apple, Granny Smith apple, Pecans, Sweet Cherries, Black Plums, Russet potatoes, Choke Cherries, and Black beans, followed by:

Plums, Gala apples and Pomegranates.

So, what I conclude is, even though there is no biological proof that these foods help in real life, they have higher levels of antioxidants as measured in a lab setting.  It looks like prunes, beans, berries, and apples lead the way in Superfood land.

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6 thoughts on “The ORAC Index

  1. I’m a lover of prunes and recently I’ve been inspired to eat them with oats in the morning. Yum! I also found myself adding them to other foods throughout the day….
    I’ve recently become vegan. This has changed my diet from mainly meat, veggies and fruit, to beans, nuts, legumes, vegetables and fruits. Veggies and fruit have always been high on my list of loved foods.
    After reading your article I felt inspired to check out Dr Greger’s videos. He champions eating good nutritional foods and has many videos based upon scientific research. I was especially interested to see if he mentions prunes. And yes indeed he does. The video I really enjoyed was a more inclusive one regarding antioxidants. I’ll place the link here. I found it very interesting.

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