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The ORAC value of food or supplements provides a measurement of the antioxidant activity in the body. Because we know that oxidation and free radical damage is a main culprit in the development of many degenerative diseases and cancer, it may be tempting to buy and take antioxidants
that offer the highest value.
If only it were that simple. According to Ronald Prior, a chemist at USDA’s Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center in Little Rock, “These plant compounds really vary in their bioavailability and may influence our bodies’ biological processes in many different ways,” he says. In other words just because a food is high in antioxidants doesn’t always mean that the body is able to absorb and utilize it to its full capacity. There are some issues to take into consideration when you are comparing these values for food and for supplements.
ORAC Value Tests
The first being that there are different Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity lab tests – each measures values differently. Some measure the antioxidant capacity of
some measure the fat soluble compounds.
There is a therapeutic window where the level and balance of antioxidants are protecting and defending the body. But just as you can have too low of a level of available antioxidants, too high of a level can be what is called pro-oxidative and can cause the type of damage that we are trying to prevent.
ORAC Values for Food
Although generally speaking we can state which foods provide better antioxidant protection than another, ORAC values will vary in food depending on:
1) The growing conditions – like soil, water, and temperature
2) When the fruit or vegetable was picked. Was it picked ripe or green before key nutrients have developed
3) How the food was stored, processed or cooked
There are other key compounds in foods that don’t play an antioxidant role but do influence the bioavailability of the antioxidant and this should not be neglected. Don’t just pick one food, berry or juice because it has the highest ORAC value. Incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet so that you are taking advantage of other important nutrients for your body and your eyes.
ORAC Values and Antioxidant Supplements
It may come as a surprise to you, as it did to me, that some supplements that include high doses of a single antioxidant or combined with a few others can be harmful or ineffective. The doses in many supplements are usually much higher that what is found in fruits and vegetables.
A single antioxidant does not function independent of other nutrients. An isolated nutrient is missing other key nutrients that enhance the way the body will utilize it. The best antioxidant health supplement will include:
1) Whole foods rather than synthetic and/or single ingredients.
2) Food combinations that are synergistic, but not pro-oxidative.
3) Supplements that include lipid and water soluble antioxidants.
If you are interested in knowing more about a supplement that meets these standards, includes whole food products, and was found to increase a blood serum marker of oxidative protection by 37.4% click here: