How Free Radicals, Antioxidants, and ORAC Values Affect Your Health

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Filed Under: Diet, Why You Need Supplements, Nutritional Support, General Health
Last Reviewed 02/12/2014

How Free Radicals, Antioxidants, and ORAC Values Affect Your Health

One of the best things you can do to maintain optimal health and well-being is to fight off free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that damage other molecules through a process called oxidation. The accumulation of free radicals contributes to disease processes by damaging cell membranes, proteins, and even DNA.

As you age, free radical damage accumulates. Research has shown that this is a cause of aging and age-related physiological decline. Furthermore, free radical damage is implicated in several conditions such as atherosclerosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts, osteoarthritis, and immune deficiency.

That’s why one of the most important steps in maintaining health is to neutralize free radicals with antioxidants. In fact, The Alliance for Aging Research has cited studies indicating that simply taking antioxidants can confer a 20–40 percent reduction in the incidence of cancer, heart disease, cataracts, and other diseases.

You can boost your antioxidant levels by eating foods that are rich in these free radical fighters such as fruits and vegetables and by taking nutritional supplements that contain them.

Beyond that, there is something else to keep in mind when it comes to antioxidants and their capacity for promoting optimal health and well-being. 

Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC)

While increasing your intake of antioxidant-rich foods and supplements will provide powerful benefits for your health, you can get a lot more bang for your buck if you also take ORAC value into consideration.

Developed by the National Institute on Aging, the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scale indicates the free radical scavenging capacity—or antioxidant power—of specific foods or nutrients: the higher the ORAC units, the greater the antioxidant activity.

Some foods with a high-ORAC value include: raisins (2,830), blueberries (2,400), spinach (1,260), and broccoli (890). You can also take supplements that contain standardized plant extracts that have been shown to have even higher ORAC values such as bilberry (4,722), grape seed (7,925), and a special whole grape extract known as VinCare® or ORAC-15M™ (15,000).

The bottom line? It’s never too late to knock out free radicals by increasing your intake of antioxidants, and I believe the best way to do that is through a combination of diet and targeted supplements.

Now it’s your turn: How do you make sure your body has the antioxidants it needs?

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