Why You Should Forget About ORAC Values

By Nancy Andrews

Are ORAC Values Useless?

May 15th, 2013 | By Nancy Andrews | Category: Beyond The First 90 Days, Still Pressing Play with Coach Chris, Coach Nancy - The Way I See It..., Diet Reviews, Nutrition & Weight Loss, P90X Diet

fresh fruit veggies small Why You Should Forget About ORAC ValuesFor the past few years if you are focused on nutrition you know that the ORAC value (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) is one way to ‘rank’ different fruits and veggies against one another.  In essence, the higher the ORAC value, the better that food source is at absorbing free radicals in your body.  Fewer free radicals equals less cell damage and that, in turn, should produce better health.

The USDA used to recommend that we hit 3000 – 5000 ORAC points per day.  This could be hit with the following:

  • 1/2 raw apple (3600 pts) and 1/2 cup raw broccoli (1900) = 5500
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries(7488)

As you can see, this isn’t much in terms of what a person would eat to attain the USDA target each day.  And of course more would be better but does this really guide us?  I mean look at this chart of the top 10 ORAC foods:

orac values per100grams Why You Should Forget About ORAC Values

Now the top of the this chart shows some spices/bran that seem really high in ORAC value but what you need to know is that the ORAC values shown are for 100 gram servings which is about 3.5 ounces.  So it’s highly unlikely that anyone is going to eat 3.5 oz of clove spice in a week, much less than a day.  So ORAC values can be misleading unless you find a source that adjusts them for more commonly used quantities.

Moreover, the way ORAC values are established should lead one to question whether they have that much usefulness.  It’s a test tube test involving only one radical that I’ve read isn’t even found in the human body.  What?  Moreover there has never been any established, measured benefit associated with the consumption of high ORAC foods.

In 2012, the USDA withdrew the ORAC points system as a way to rank food choices.  I’m no fan of USDA recommendations but in this case, I do believe that a little less attention to an arbitrarily derived points system and more attention to other food attributes would do us all good.

So if we no longer use ORAC values to help us choose foods to support our health, what should we use?  Tomorrow I’ll be back with an alternate and simpler way to approach this challenge.


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