Antioxidant

Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals, which start chain reactions that damage cells. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions by being oxidized themselves. As a result, antioxidants are often reducing agents such as thiols or polyphenols.

Antioxidant capacity is often expressed as the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC). It is a method of measuring antioxidant capacities of different foods. It was developed by the scientists at the National Institute on Agingpart of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland.

Studies at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston suggest that consuming fruits and vegetables with a high ORAC value may help slow the aging process in both body and brain. Other research has shown that in middle-aged rats, foods with a high ORAC value can reduce loss of long-term memory and learning ability, maintain the ability of brain cells to respond to stimuli (thought to decrease with age) and protect blood vessels against oxygen damage. The assumption is that these high ORAC foods benefit people in much the same way.  The generally accepted recommendation from many doctors is a daily consumption of at least 5500 ORAC units. Many spices such as cumin, cloves, cinnamon, basil, curry, and others have very high antioxidant content (over 300,000 per 100g), but are usually consumed in very small quantities.

 

Serving

ORAC

 
Cabernet Wine
147ml/5oz
7400
Apples
140g/5oz
4315
Blueberries
140g/5oz
9173
Dark Chocolate
40g/1.5oz
8330
Cherries
140g/5oz
4711
Grape Juice
240ml/8oz
5705
Cranberry Juice
240ml/8oz
2186
Pomegranate Juice
240ml/8oz
2341
Pecans
30g/1oz
5382

References:

Mayo Clinic article on the antioxidant benefits of red wine and Resveratrol. The report on the studies that show reductions in inflammation, and healthy heart benefits of antioxidants.

Dietary antioxidant flavonoids protect against post-menopausal breast cancer. Research study at Columbia University showed a 25-50% reduction in risk of tumor formation. 

Antioxidants prevent coronary artery disease. This review of the available research by three faculty members at the University of Wisconsin Medical School highlights the benefits of vitamins, supplements, and foods high in antioxidants.

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