Understanding ORAC Units
Antioxidants play an extremely important role in the human diet and levels vary greatly between different foods. This is why scientists developed the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) system. This system provides an accurate and measurable comparison of antioxidant levels between foods making it easier for consumers to understand their ORAC intakes. Other lab tests measure specific antioxidant levels such as vitamin c, but this system measures total antioxidants together as a group. An ORAC measurement includes vitamins, flavonoids, phenols, anthocyanin’s and more all grouped into one accurate score. The USDA recommends eating 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units per day which may be difficult for some. Eating a diet rich in berries can make achieving your daily recommended ORAC units simple and delicious.
Blueberries have been widely toted as the most antioxidant rich food on the market. Although blueberries are healthy and do have many antioxidants, they are definitely not on top of the ORAC scale. Millions of marketing dollars are put behind the marketing of blueberries each year by the large blueberry growers association which is why they are so widely known. Another highly marketed berry is the acai berry. The acai berry is high in antioxidants as well, but not the chart topper. In fact the large seed in the berry is why you only see it in juice or powder form. Once heated and pasteurized to create juice, the Antioxidants (ORAC units) are significantly lowered below blueberry levels. However, wild berries sold by Northwest Wild Foods, many of which grow naturally right here in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, actually contain significantly greater amounts of antioxidants or ORAC points.
ORAC units are generally measured per gram or per 100 grams. There is a lot of information out there so make sure you are comparing accurately by checking this. Some numbers will be in the tens to hundreds when measured per gram and in the thousands per 100 grams. It’s a very simple conversion if you are aware but ORAC numbers online may leave you confused. Dried products or powders will also significantly increase the numbers so measuring a frozen berry compared to a dried berry powder may not be the comparison your looking for. Eating 100 grams of raw berries is much more likely in a serving then eating 100 grams of dried berry powder. So keep these things in mind when assessing your daily ORAC unit consumption.
Here is a breakdown of ORAC units per 1/3 cup of berries. This is for blueberry sized berries. Hopefully breaking it down this way will help ease some confusion in understanding ORAC units.
ORAC units per 1/3 cup berries (approx)
Cultivated Blueberries- 1,075
Northwest Wild Blueberries- 2,733
Wild Blue Huckleberries- 4,973