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Understanding Antioxidants & ORAC Value

If you are someone who is interested in antioxidant nutrition or spends a lot of time reading it, you must have definitely heard of ORAC value. For those of you who do not know the terms antioxidant and ORAC, here is a small explanation of these terms.

Antioxidant

An antioxidant is a term for any compound that can counter the free radicals that damage the DNA, cells or any parts of it. 

Some antioxidants are naturally produced in the body and a lot of them come from the food we eat. Ex., Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta carotene, phytochemicals from various plant sources like gallic acid, quercetin, catechin, etc., 

Free radicals are unstable molecules and lack a full complement of electrons. To become stable they steal electrons from other molecules and damage them in the process. 

Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals by giving up their electrons and stopping the chain reaction of further damage.  1

Why does the body generate free radicals?

Free radicals are generated in response to environmental pollution, UV rays, smoking, alcohol consumption, attack from external microbes like bacteria or viruses, and also as a natural byproduct of processes in the cells. 

If the body cannot eliminate the free radicals effectively it will result in oxidative stress which eventually leads to compromised immunity and many health conditions.  

 To counter these free radicals, antioxidants from our food and various supplements can come to the rescue. 2

Understanding ORAC value

The antioxidant values of foods are expressed in ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) units, which is a unit of measurement for antioxidant content. This was originally developed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

It is an in-vitro method of measuring the antioxidant capacity of different foods and supplements. Higher the ORAC value stronger the antioxidant capacity of a food/supplement. 

ORAC values are listed as µmol TE/100g (micromol Trolox Equivalent per 100 grams) 3

Optimal ORAC intake 

References have shown that a healthy immune system requires 3000-5500 daily ORAC intake. (US Dept of Agriculture Research Service, Tufts University)

Top foods with high ORAC value/100gm 3

Clove 314446
Sumac Bran 312400
Ground Cinnamon 267536 
Sorghum bran 240000
Dried oregano 200129
Ground turmeric 159277
Acai berry, freeze-dried 102700
Sorghum, bran, black 100800
Sumac, grain, raw 86800
Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened 80933

ORAC values of a few Ayurvedic herbs 4

Triphala 706,250
Amla(Indian gooseberry) 261,500
Alovera 115,000
Licorice root, 102,945
Tulsi powder 67,553
Ashwagandha root 8,487
Tinospora extract 2,614

ORAC of the popular Ayurvedic superfood- Chyavanprash

One of the most popular Rasayana (rejuvenatives) described in Ayurveda, Chyavanprash is a polyherbal preparation that has 40+ herbs along with cow ghee, honey, and sesame oil. The formulation is full of phytochemicals(plant chemicals) many of which seem to have antioxidant potential.

The antioxidant value of Chyavanprash described in ORAC units is 35,700 μ mol TE/100g. 4

There are a few tests that measure the antioxidant capacity of a food/ supplement this way but ORAC is probably the best known and most popular.

Ready to grab the ORAC-rich 365veda Chyavanprash?

References

  1. Ronald L. Prior, Oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC): New horizons in relating dietary antioxidants/bioactive and health benefits, Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 18, Part B, 2015, Pages 797-810, ISSN 1756-4646, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2014.12.018. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464614003971
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-antioxidants 
  3. https://www.orac-info-portal.de/download/ORAC_R2.pdf
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342070837_RASAYANA_AS_ORAC_CONNOTATION_-AN_INTERCESSIONAL_HEALTH_PROMOTION_IN_COVID-19

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