Foods That Score High in an Antioxidant Assay

Foodsthat Score High in an Antioxidant Assay Called ORAC May Protect Cells and theirComponents from Oxidative Damage, According to Studies of Animals and of HumanBlood.


HumanNutrition, ARS Quarterly Report, January – March 1999

ORAC,short for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, is a test-tube analysis thatmeasures the total antioxidant power of foods and other chemical substances.Early findings suggest that eating plenty of high-ORAC fruits andvegetables-such as spinach and blueberries-may help slow processesassociated with aging in the brain and other parts of the body. In otherresearch studies, consuming high-ORAC foods has so far been shown to (1) raisethe antioxidant power of human blood 10 to 25 percent; (2) prevent some loss oflong-term memory and learning ability in middle-aged rats; (3) maintain theability of brain cells in middle-aged rats to respond to a chemical stimulus, afunction that normally decreases with age; and (4) protect rats’ tiny bloodvessels-capillaries-against oxygen damage. The thesis that oxidative damageculminates in many of the maladies of aging is well accepted in the healthcommunity. The evidence has spurred skyrocketing sales of antioxidant vitamins.But several large trials have had mixed results. Combinations of nutrients foundin foods may have greater protective effects than each nutrient taken alone, theresearchers contend. The 10 highest ORAC fruits, in descending order, areprunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums,oranges, red grapes and cherries. The 10 highest ORAC vegetables are garlic,kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli florets, beets, redbell peppers, onions and corn.

USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging atTufts, Boston, MA
Ronald Prior/James Joseph/Guohua Cao/BarbaraShukitt-Hale, (617) 556-3310.