When reading about antioxidants, I came across a reference to an ORAC score or an ORAC value. Certain foods have a much higher ORAC score than others. Does this matter? What does an ORAC score or value even mean?
First off, ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. In layman’s terms, the definition of an ORAC score is the value given to a food that measures the potential to destroy or absorb free radicals based on 100g of that food.
However, the methods used to measure ORAC scores only measure the antioxidant activity in water-based areas of the body, so the scores might not be completely accurate. After all, the human body is vastly different and infinitely more complex than the test tubes used to calculate ORAC scores.
That’s about all I can wrap my head around without taking some college-level biology courses, so let’s move onto foods and their ORAC scores:
Some of the fruits that have the highest ORAC scores include prunes (14,582), wild blueberries (13,427), cranberries (9,584), blueberries (9,019), and blackberries (7,701). Vegetables with high ORAC scores include small red beans (13,727), red kidney beans (13,259), pinto beans (11,864), artichoke hearts (7,904), and potatos (4,649). Other foods have high ORAC values as well, including raw cocoa beans (7,840) and pecans (5,095).
It’s worth mentioning though that in 2012, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) removed all ORAC values and scores from its website because there wasn’t enough scientific evidence that proved ORAC has any biological significance.
Still, there are a lot of companies and even more products that tout a high ORAC score. Is it something you should consider above all else? Probably not. Does it hurt to try and choose foods and supplements that have ORAC scores higher than others? Not at all!
If the ORAC score is important to you–and for many people who try to live a healthy lifestyle, it is, despite what the USDA says–you’ll want to shoot for around 5,000 ORAC units per day. If your diet is rich with berries, beans, and legumes, this should be no trouble at all.