The following is a reprint of an article published in the May 1999 issue of Food Technology Magazine.
“An Antioxidant analysis called ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), developed by researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Mass., finds early evidence that eating fruits and vegetables having high antioxidant activity may help slow the processes of aging and reduce the risk of age-related diseases such as cancer and heart attack.
According to the researchers, the test-tube assay measures the ability of foods, blood plasma, and other substances to subdue oxygen free radicals, which can cause damage to healthy cells. Fruits and vegetables that have the highest ORAC units per 100 grams included prunes (5,770), raisins(2,830), blueberries (2,400), blackberries (2,036), Kale (1,770) strawberries(1,540) raspberries (1,200) Brussels sprouts (980), plums (948), Alfalfa Sprouts (930), broccoli flowers (890), beets (840), oranges (750), red grapes (739), red bell peppers (710), cherries (670), kiwi fruit (602), and grapefruit (480).
In one study, when the daily intake of fruits and vegetables was doubled for 36 men and women, ages 20-80, who normally ate the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, the ORAC test revealed that food antioxidants not only are absorbed but also boost the antioxidant power of the blood 13-15%. In a second study, eight women gave blood after separately ingesting spinach, strawberries, and red wine or taking 1,250 mg of vitamin C.It was found that a large serving of fresh spinach produced the biggest rise in blood antioxidant scores (up 25%) followed by vitamin C, strawberries, and red wine.
In parallel studies using rats, the researchers have demonstrated that ingestion of antioxidants may lead to specific health benefits such as preventing some loss of long -term memory and learning ability; maintaining the ability of brain cells to respond to a chemical stimulus, a function that normally decreases with age; and protecting blood vessels against oxygen damage.
Findings such as these support the view that consuming more fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of aging associated diseases, both mental and physical, and promote the healthy image of these foods for use as ingredients.”