This morning, I had a smoothie.
It was the usual– frozen spinach, frozen blackberries, frozen banana, 1 tsp vanilla, water, and an Amazing Grass packet.
When I was at Whole Foods earlier in the week, I picked up this “flavor” of Amazing Grass.
“15,000 ORAC units per serving”
What the heck is ORAC?
Whatever it is, it made my smoothie taste good.
While I was sipping my smoothie, I figured I’d google it. At first, I mis-typed and googled “Orca” and a bunch of photos of whales popped up. I was pretty sure that wasn’t what was in my vegan smoothie powder.
The real answer is:
ORAC (the oxygen radical absorbance capacity) measures antioxidant levels (also known as the free radical destroying potential) of a particular food.
The higher the ORAC number – the stronger the antioxidant properties of the substance.
If you want foods with greater antioxidant properties, you look for foods with high ORAC levels. The USDA recommends we consume 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units daily. But based on the “5-a-day” fruit and vegetable serving recommendations, that will only give you an ORAC score of about 1,750 units. source
Hmmm, the Amazing Grass packet had 15,000 units, so I think I am good for the day!
Based on a 3 ounce portion (100 grams), here’s the ORAC ranking of the top fruits and veggies: Source
Goji berries 25,300
Black raspberries 7,700
Acai berry 5,500
Red raspberries 2,400
Yellow squash 1,150
Brussels sprouts 980
Alfalfa sprouts 930
Steamed spinach 909
Red bell pepper 710
Dark chocolate 13,120
Milk chocolate 6,740
Yay, Chocolate has a high ORAC value!
We tend to focus a lot on the power of antioxidants– we eat blueberries and raspberries, knowing how high they are. But we don’t tend to count our ORAC (unless you happen to be a scientist). Should we?
According to a Doc, “While these values are useful, they are not complete. Here’s the larger picture. The ORAC scores actually measure only one type of antioxidant activity — the reactive oxygen species or ROS that functions in the water-based compartments of the body. Along with many other water-soluble antioxidants, there are fat-soluble antioxidants as well. source”
So, moral of the story?
Eat your blueberries (and goji berries, and spinach, and of course, chocolate!). I don’t think it’s necessary to count your ORAC score everyday, but keeping it above 5,000 can only have positive results.