Which Foods Contain the Most Antioxidants?
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health developed the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, or ORAC, rating system to measure the antioxidant capacity of foods. According to ORACValues.com, foods with high oxygen radical absorbance capacity or "ORAC scores" have higher antioxidant capacities that more effectively neutralize free radicals. Foods with higher ORAC scores may slow degeneration and disease that occurs with age by suppressing free radical oxidative damage to your body..
Cloves come from dried flower buds on evergreen trees that are part of the Myrtaceae family. Cloves are native to Indonesia and ground cloves are a common spice for cuisine around the world. According to the Orac Values online database, 100 g of ground cloves rank above most other foods with an ORAC score of 314,446.
Raw Bran Sumac
Sumac is a variety of sorghum that is raised for grain and contains high tannin concentrations. According to the Epicentre, an online encyclopedia of spices, sumac berries grow in dense clusters that are dried and crushed to form a coarse purple or red powder that has a sour taste. The ORAC Values database indicates that 100 g of raw sumac has an ORAC score of 312,400.
Cinnamon trees are native to Bangladesh, India and Nepal. These trees are small evergreens that are part of the Lauracea family. Bark from the cinnamon tree is ground to create the familiar spice that is used around the around. A laboratory sample of 100 g of cinnamon gets 267,536 on the ORAC scale.
The perennial herb, oregano, contains flavonoids and penolic acids that contribute to its high antioxidant activity. Oregano is a popular spice for food preservation. According to the ORAC Values website notes that some cultures use oregano to relieve coughs. A 100 g sample of dried oregano earns an ORAC score of 200,129.
Freeze Dried Açaí Berry
The açaí berry is native to Central and South America. This berry grows on açaí palm trees. Antioxidant activity in the açaí berry suppresses the effect of free radicals known as peroxyl and peroxynitrite radicals. According to the ORAC Values website, the açaí berry's berry ORAC score is higher than any other plant as of September 2010. A laboratory test sample of 100 g of açaí earns an ORAC score of 161,000.
Maqui Berry Powder
The maqui berry is native to the Patagonian region of South America, and contains one of the highest levels of antioxidants that occur in fruits. Maqui berry extract contains a red pigment that wine producers often use to color wines. The ORAC system gives 100 g of concentrated maqui berry powder an ORAC score that ranges from 75,000 to 92,000.
USDA data on foods with high ORAC scores
Food Serving size Antioxidant capacity per serving size. Units are Total Antioxidant Capacity per serving in units of micromoles of Trolox equivalents.
- Raw unprocessed Cacao 100 grams 28 000
Small Red Bean ½ cup dried beans 13727
1 cup 13427
Red kidney bean
½ cup dried beans 13259
½ cup 11864
1 cup (cultivated berries) 9019
1 cup (whole berries) 8983
1 cup, cooked 7904
1 cup (cultivated berries) 7701
½ cup 7291
1 cup 6058
1 cup 5938
Red Delicious apple
1 apple 5900
Granny Smith apple 1 apple 5381
1 cup 4873
1 plum 4844
1, cooked 4649
Black bean[disambiguation needed]
½ cup dried beans 4181
Plum 1 plum 4118
1 apple 3903
With nearly all vegetables, conventional boiling can reduce the ORAC value by up to 90%, while steaming retains more of the antioxidants.
 Comparisons of ORAC values
When comparing ORAC data, care must be taken to ensure that the units and food being compared are similar. Some evaluations will compare ORAC units per gram of dry weight, others will evaluate ORAC units in wet weight and still others will look at ORAC units per serving. Under each evaluation, different foods can appear to have higher ORAC values. For example, although a raisin has no more antioxidant potential than the grape from which it was dried, raisins will appear to have a higher ORAC value per gram of wet weight than grapes due to their reduced water content. Likewise, large water content in watermelon can make it appear as though this fruit is low in ORAC. Similarly, the typical quantity of food used should be considered; herbs and spices may be high in ORAC, but are applied in much smaller quantities than for other foods.
Numerous health food and beverage companies and marketers have capitalized on the ORAC rating by promoting products claimed to be "high in ORAC". As most of these ORAC values have not been independently validated or subjected to peer review for publication in scientific literature, they remain unconfirmed, are not scientifically credible, and may mislead consumers.
ORAC in foods
Many common foods are good sources of antioxidants. In the list of foods given below, "rich in antioxidants" usually means at least a ORAC rating of 1000 per 100 g. A typical apple or pear weighs around 200 g and hence 200 g can be considered as the serving size.
Spices, herbs, essential oils and cocoa are rich in antioxidant properties in the plant itself and in vitro, but the serving size is too small to supply antioxidants via the diet. Typical spices high in antioxidants (confirmed in vitro) are clove, cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, cumin, parsley, basil, curry powder, mustard seed, ginger, pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic, coriander, onion and cardamom. Typical herbs are sage, thyme, marjoram, tarragon, peppermint, oregano, savory, basil and dill weed.
Dried fruits are a good source of antioxidants by weight/serving size as the water has been removed making the ratio of antioxidants higher. Typical dried fruits are pears, apples, plums, peaches, raisins, figs and dates. Dried raisins are high in polyphenol count. Red wine is high in total polyphenol count which supplies antioxidant quality which is unlikely to be conserved following digestion (see section below).
Sorghum bran, cocoa powder, and cinnamon are rich sources of procyanidins, which are large molecular weight compounds found in many fruits and some vegetables shown to be beneficial for health in humans. Partly due to the large molecular weight (size) of these compounds, the amount that is actually absorbed into the body is low. These compounds can be degraded by bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Crude rice bran and other cereals like corn-flakes, oats and granola are also good sources of antioxidants.
Nuts are a moderate source of polyphenol antioxidants. Typical nuts are pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachio, almonds, cashew nuts, macadamia nuts and peanut butter.
Deeply pigmented fruits like cranberries, blueberries, plums, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, figs, cherries, guava, oranges, mango, grape juice and pomegranate juice also have significant ORAC scores.
Typical cooked vegetables rich in antioxidants are artichokes, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, avocados, beetroot and frozen spinach.
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