To optimize your health, I believe it is important to regularly include foods in your diet that contain lots of anti-oxidants. These are very effective at boosting the immune system and lowering the incidence of disease. I have found that the foods in the list that follows are relatively inexpensive choices and are loaded with nutrients that help fend off heart disease, cancer, and pre-mature aging. This is believed to be due to their high ORAC score. Now, just what is an “ORAC score?” I’m so glad you asked that question! Please read on…..
What Is An ORAC Score?
The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) unit, ORAC value, or “ORAC score” is a method of measuring the antioxidant capacity of different foods and supplements. More than two decades in the making, it was developed by scientists working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and USDA. While the exact relationship between the ORAC value of a food and its health benefit has not been established, many scientists believe that foods higher on the ORAC scale will more effectively neutralize free radicals. According to the free-radical theory of aging, this may slow the oxidative processes and free radical damage that can contribute to age-related degeneration and disease.
The nice thing about this method is that it measures the antioxidant activity of a food rather than the levels of specific nutrients, such as vitamin C or E. After all, there are thousands of unique antioxidant compounds in plants, most of which we haven’t discovered yet. Presently, there is no way to measure all of them. This approach would also capture any synergistic effects between the various nutrients—ways in which nutrients are more effective in combination than they are individually.
So, when it comes to ORAC scores, the higher the better! Please keep in mind that there are many wonderful, high-scoring ORAC foods. Some are expensive; others can be difficult to find or add to the diet. Here’s my list of the top 12 anti-oxidant foods and spices which I believe are easy to find, add to the diet on a regular basis, and relatively inexpensive:
Twelve Wonderful Anti-Aging Foods And Spices
- Black Raspberries
- Golden Raisins
Many green foods have a good ORAC score as well. However, they do not score as highly as the ones mentioned.
An Example: Protect Your Arteries With Pecans
Let’s take a look at just one food on the list….pecans. Not only do pecans lower cholesterol, but they also help prevent LDL cholesterol—the bad cholesterol—from being oxidized. That’s great news, because once LDL cholesterol is oxidized, it’s more likely to build up in the arteries and lead to atherosclerosis.
Pecans have a large amount of anti-oxidants, including a form of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol, the flavenoid catechin, and proanthocyanidins. Even though pecans are high in fat, these anti-oxidants counteract fat’s potentially negative effects.
In a recent study completed at Loma Linda University, 16 people ate three different test meals with a one-week washout period between each one. The meals consisted of 90 grams, or about 3 ounces, of whole pecans plus water, the same amount of pecans blended with water, and a control meal with no pecans. Here are the results:
- Eight hours after eating the pecan meals, blood concentrations of gamma-tocopherol doubled.
- Just two hours after eating the whole and blended pecan meals, the oxygen radical absorbance capabilities (ORAC) increased by 12 and 10 percent, respectively.
- Oxidized LDL cholesterol decreased by 30 percent after two hours, 33 percent after three hours, and 26 percent after eight hours.
Presently, researchers aren’t sure exactly how pecans and other nuts help protect your heart. But it’s likely that gamma-tocopherol and catechin provide key anti-oxidant benefits.
Just a few handfuls of pecans a day is enough to impact inflammation. They may be used as a snack between meals, sprinkled on salads, or incorporated into your recipes.
How To Super-Boost Your OREC Score!
To ensure an abundance of high ORAC foods, I have introduced a product to my patients by the name of Diamond Nutritionals’ Super Greens Powder. Two scoops (16 grams) contain a natural food blend of 18 fruits and vegetables equivalent to 13.5 SERVINGS of fruits and vegetables! It may be mixed with water or juice. Here’s what is in just two scoops:
- Food Blend: Apple, Strawberry, Kiwi, Blueberry, Blackberry, Acacia, Cherry, and Raspberry
- Greens Blend: Spirulina and Wheat Grass Juice
- Vegetable Antioxidant Blend: Broccoli Sprout Concentrate, Brussel Sprout, Kale, Spinach, Carrot, Broccoli, Onion Extract, and Tomato
I add this to my green smoothie every morning. It provides the benefits of several servings of fruit without the calories or sugar. It has a natural strawberry-kiwi flavor. My patients love it. I believe you will, too!