ORAC Value of foods, acai, mangosteen, and others by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
Feb 12 2014

ORAC is an acronym that stands for 'oxygen radical absorbance capacity.' Berries have some of the highest ORAC values of fruits. Are people relying too much on these numbers? The data for antioxidant capacity of foods generated by test-tube methods cannot be reliably extrapolated to human effects. Antioxidant molecules in food are known to have a wide range of functions, many of which are unrelated to the ability to absorb free radicals. The bottom line is that people should not overly rely on these numbers as they are not as meaningful as some promoters claim.

ORAC Antioxidant Values of certain herbs and foods
Please note that different labs may measure these values differently and each batch of an herb, fruit, or vegetable could have a slightly or moderately different ORAC value based on ripeness, soil, season it is grown, and other factors. The number listed below are approximations. Do not base your decision to buy or take supplements purely on ORAC value. There are many other factors to consider regarding the benefits or side effects of the various compounds within herbs and plants.

Orac Value per 100 grams
Cacao beans, Cocoa powder and dark chocolate have very high ORAC values
Blueberries 8700
Raspberries 5300
Cranberry 5200
Cherries 4700
Walnuts 3400
Prunes 3200
Milk Chocolate 1700
Almonds 1300
Raisins 1200
Mangosteen - as of June 2008, we have not seen any independent studies to determine its ORAC value.
Tea - Decaffeinated teas have an ORAC value about 500 to 800 while that of regular tea ranges between 700 to 1600.

Is ORAC Value important?
As consumers hear more about this concept, they may give more importance to this value than perhaps justified. There is some reason to place less importance on ORAC values for these reasons: There is no industry standard for measuring ORAC values; marketers may overinflate the ORAC value of their supplements (and this could happen more often than consumers think. Don't take the word of the supplements sellers as gospel; different growing and harvesting conditions, including the season and temperature, influence the ORAC value of a particular plant by as much as fourfold: ORAC value can be influenced by how the plant material is dealt with, for instance cooking, freezing, and storage.
   Simple assays including the oxygen radical absorbance capacity and DPPH (2, 2'-diphenyl-l-picrylhydrazyl) were designed to measure an individual antioxidant's free radical scavenging capacity. Food manufacturers sometimes include the results of these tests on labels, implying that because of the presence of antioxidant compounds, foods themselves have higher antioxidant capacity. These antioxidant measurements do not necessarily predict how a food or product will react in the human body, or whether it will maintain antioxidant benefits when ingested.

Q. Could you give me the orac values of products in terms of trolox equivalents per g instead of per serving so i can actually compare them? the serving size is so arbitrary sometimes. what i am looking for is a good comparison of supplements out there: mangosteen, goji, purple corn, bilberry, elderberry, blueberry, grape seed extract, green tea extract, etc.
   A. There are many beneficial substances in plants and herbs that have no relation to their ORAC value. It is simplistic to think one can know the ideal diet or supplement use by ORAC value alone. Many herbs, in addition to their antioxidant properties, have an influence on other aspects of health, for better or worse. For instance, goji berries have a high antioxidant value, but if too high a dose is taken of the supplement, it could cause alertness and shallow sleep. By preventing deep sleep, high doses of goji could actually be harmful. Another example is cocoa. The high amounts of caffeine or theobromines may cause anxiety or disturb sleep patterns and could actually worsen health when misused, or consumed in the evening. Rather than going out of one's way to add up, count, and balance ORAC values, one should focus on ingesting a wide variety of beneficial plants and herbs. Each has its one's benefit outside of its ORAC value. At this time I don't know the Trolox equivalent of the listed herbs and foods above.

Q. As you stated many times, ORAC values may be over rated, however, I would like to know if you know if such has ever been determined for grape seed extracts and dark chocolate that has not been alkali processed?
   A. I did a Medline search in July 2008 for " grape seed extract orac value " but did not find any studies. There are quite a number of ways that cacao beans are processed before they reach the dark chocolate phase, therefore it is difficult to give precise numbers. Furthermore, there are quite a number of different cacao tree species, and the cacao beans in their fruits would have different chemical compositions.

ORAC unit dosage recommendations
The USDA recommends an ORAC unit ingestion of about 3,000 to 5,000 units daily.

ORAC Value Research - Assay
Molecules. 2013. Oxygen radical absorbance capacity of different varieties of strawberry and the antioxidant stability in storage. Total antioxidant capacity of different varieties of strawberry (Ningfeng, Ningyu, Zijin 4, Toyonoka, Benihope, Sweet Charlie) in different developmental stages (including green unripe stages, half red stages, and red ripe stages) was investigated by oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) assay. In addition, effects of the antioxidant properties of strawberry stored at 4 C or -18 C for a period of five months were studied. The results showed that antioxidant capacity of strawberry changed based on tested part, developmental stage, variety, and time of collection. Calyces had significantly higher ORAC values compared with fruits. Strawberry fruits had higher ORAC values during the green unripe stages than the half red stages and red ripe stages. Strawberries got higher ORAC values during short-time storage, and then decreased during long-time storage. Samples stored at -18 C exhibited higher antioxidant capacity than those stored at 4 C, while vacuum treatment could further increase ORAC values. The results indicated the potential market role of strawberries as a functional food and could provide great value in preventing oxidation reaction in food processing and storage for the dietary industry.

Effect of ascorbic acid and dehydration on concentrations of total phenolics, antioxidant capacity, anthocyanins, and color in fruits.
J Agric Food Chem. 2005. Department of Nutrition and Food Technology, Jordan University of Science and Technology, Irbid Jordan.
The purpose of this investigation was to report on the total phenolics, anthocyanins, and oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC testing) of strawberry, peach, and apple, the influence of dehydration and ascorbic acid treatments on the levels of these compounds, and the effect of these treatments on fruit color. Results showed that fresh strawberry had the highest levels for total phenolics [5317 mg of chlorogenic acid equivalents (CAE)/kg], whereas lower levels were found in fresh apple and peach (3392 and 1973 mg of CAE/kilogram, respectively), and for anthocyanins (138 mg/kg), whereas lower levels were found in fresh apple and peaches (11 and 19 mg/kg, respectively; fresh strawberry had an ORAC value of 62 mM/kg Trolox equivalents. The fresh apple and peach were found to have ORAC values of 14 and 11 mM/kg of Trolox equivalents, respectively. The color values indicated that the addition of 0.1% ascorbic acid increased the lightness (L) and decreased the redness (a) and yellowness (b) color values of fresh strawberry, peach, and apple, sliced samples, and the puree made from them. Also, results showed that dehydration is a good method to keep the concentrations of total phenolics and anthocyanins and ORAC values at high levels.

Antioxidant capacity of vegetables, spices and dressings relevant to nutrition.
Br J Nutr. 2005.
Vegetables are the most important sources of phenolics in the Mediterranean diet. In this study, twenty-seven vegetables, fifteen aromatic herbs and some spices consumed in Central Italy (the Marches region) were studied to reveal total phenolic, flavonoid and flavanol content as well as their antioxidant capacity measured by the oxygen radical absorbance capacity method. A comparison in terms of antioxidant capacity was made between different salads, as well as between salads to which aromatic herbs had been added. Lemon balm and marjoram at a concentration of 1.5 % w/w increased by 150 % and 200 % respectively the antioxidant capacity of a salad portion. A 200 g portion of a salad enriched with marjoram corresponded to an intake of 200 (SD 10) mg phenolics and 4000 (SD 300) ORAC units (micromol Trolox equivalents). Olive oils and wine or apple vinegars were the salad dressings that provided the highest increase in antioxidant capacity. Among the spices tested, cumin and fresh ginger made the most significant contribution to the antioxidant capacity. The results are useful in surveying the antioxidant parameters of vegetables, herbs and spices produced and consumed in our geographical area as well as in quantifying the daily intake of phenolics and ORAC units. The results can be used in public health campaigns to stimulate the consumption of vegetables able to provide significant health protection in order to prevent chronic diseases.

Emails
Q. What are the glycemic index and the ORAC value of mangosteen juice?
   A. We don't know about the glycemic index. Many of the mangosteen juices on the market have other fruit juices mixed with it. We have not seen any good studies on the ORAC value of mangosteen by independent laboratories. ORAC value is only a minor part of the overall value of a supplement.

Q. Hello, thank you so much for your website that is very resourceful... and it feels like you really want to help and educate and not only sell, sell, sell. Which fruit juice is more powerful with regards to overall health benefit and it's antioxident level, the Mangosteen or the Acai Berry. The orac scores indicate that 1 gram of Acai berry is 3800 orac value and the Mangosteen is 17,000 orac value, but I do not know what amount of Mangosteen they used to come up with that value. Do you know which fruit contains higher antioxident level?
     A. Although people seem to focus on ORAC values, there are many other substances in herbs and plants that have beneficial effects. I prefer alternating the use of different herbs and not to rely on just one. For instance, one can have several different good herbal supplements, and each day take a different one. Some of the ones that come to mind include acai berry, cocoa, curcumin, goji berry, graviola, green tea extract, mangosteen, and pomegranate. This way benefits from the various herbs can be taken advantage of and the body is exposed to a variety of helpful substances without overdosing. We searched Medline for " ORAC value mangosteen "and could not find any such information regarding the testing of mangosteen. Perhaps there are such studies and if there are, we would appreciate someone pointing it out to us.

Q. How much total orac value should one ingest a day from supplements?
   A. The ideal total orac value obtained each day is very difficult to assess and not practical. Rather than focusing on orac value, and counting the numbers, one should rather focus on ingesting a wide range of fruits and vegetables in their diet.

Q. I am a regular reader of your articles and research papers. How one can prove the increased ORAC Value after consumption of Antioxidants in a very simple way? Is there any way to prove this rather than routine and complicated blood chemistry studies?
   A. I am not aware of any clear way to tell except through blood chemistry tests that are not commonly available at doctors' office and require the sample to be send to special labs testing for levels of several antioxidant systems. This is not practical and necessary. One should rather focus on eating a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Q. I am a Food Scientist working independently in the food industry. I am interested in building a product that takes advantage of ORAC and cocoa. I have been doing some research, have read some literature but I am somewhat confused about the ORAC values of cocoa vs. dark chocolate. Therefore, my question is: How can dark chocolate (which is any where from 60% to 80% cocoa) have an ORAC value higher than cocoa (which is 100% cocoa)?
   A. Cacao bean is the source of cocoa, chocolate, and cocoa butter. Cocoa is the dried and partially fermented fatty seed of the cacao bean from which chocolate is made. Cocoa can often also refer to cocoa powder, the dry powder made by grinding cocoa seeds and removing the cocoa butter from the dark, bitter cocoa solids; or it may refer to the combination of both cocoa powder and cocoa butter. The results of various ORAC values regarding dark chocolate and cocoa may depend on how the dark chocolate was made or how the cocoa powder was processed to make it cocoa powder. Different products and different labs may come up with different ORAC values.

Q. I am very interested in routinely measuring / tracking my blood antioxidant level. What are your thoughts on the value of this?
   A. I do not seen any clinical value in knowing one's antioxidant status through blood studies.

Q. Regarding the above question and answer. I'm confused. If the ORAC value is the key to measure the antioxidant effectiveness of any given food (e.g. acai berry), then I would have thought that measuring antioxidant values thru blood testing would be the final and conclusive way to determine which food is the more beneficial. After all, what really matters to achieve optimal health is not how high is the ORAC value is before consuming the food, but what is the antioxidant status in the blood after being digested. Can you please explain?
   A. There are hundreds of blood, urine, and other lab tests one can do and spend thousands and tens of thousands doing so. Before taking any test, one should reflect on how they lifestyle habits, medication use, or supplement intake will change as a result of the test. If a person is doing their best already and eating a wide range of foods and fresh vegetables and fruits, how will knowing one's blood antioxidant levels on any particular day change a person's eating habits? It is possible that the results of the testing on one day may be different a week later depending on one's diet that week. Also, it is possible that a certain food or supplement may have a high ORAC value, but eating too much of the food or supplement could cause side effects. For instance, goji berries have a high antioxidant benefits, but eating too many or taking a high dose of goji berry supplements could cause insomnia which leads to poorer health. Xanthones in mangosteen have a high ORAC value, but we don't know what other effects, good or bad, they have on tissues and organs. Therefore I do not think, with the limited medical resources and funds most people have, and most countries have, it is worthwhile to spend money on checking blood levels of antioxidants. I think people are getting too many tests without considering the fact that their health or overall longevity is not likely to change much as a result of taking these tests.

I am not interested in using a mangosteen juice but in capsules mainly consisting of the pericarp. In view of this, I would appreciate to have more information on the mangosteen product provided by you, e.g. on the orac value per pill, etc. Looking at some of the products available on the market I was struck by the exceptional high orac value attributed to a product which, according to ayurceutics, would have been obtained though an extraction process with water and alcohol. Since xanthones are not well soluble in water. I have been wondering whether the high orac value of 2150 would be completely due to the products derived from the pericarp.
    We have not done ORAC values on our mangosteen product. We think ORAC values are overrated and do not give a true picture of the benefits of a product. Xanthones act in a variety of ways besides antioxidants. The are anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, etc. Relying mostly on antioxidant values misses the overall influence of these substances on the organs and tissues of the body.

I'm confused. If the ORAC value is the key to measure the antioxidant effectiveness of any given food (e.g. acai berry), then I would have thought that measuring antioxidant values thru blood testing would be the final and conclusive way to determine which food is the more beneficial. After all, what really matters to achieve optimal health is not how high is the ORAC value is before consuming the food, but what is the antioxidant status in the blood after being digested. Can you please explain?
    There are hundreds of blood, urine, and other lab tests one can do and spend thousands and tens of thousands doing so. Before taking any test, one should reflect on how they lifestyle habits, medication use, or supplement intake will change as a result of the test. If a person is doing their best already and eating a wide range of foods and fresh vegetables and fruits, how will knowing one's blood antioxidant levels on any particular day change a person's eating habits? It is possible that the results of the testing on one day may be different a week later depending on one's diet that week. Also, it is possible that a certain food or supplement may have a high ORAC value, but eating too much of the food or supplement could cause side effects. For instance, goji berries have a high antioxidant benefits, but eating too many or taking a high dose of goji berry supplements could cause insomnia which leads to poorer health. Xanthones in mangosteen have a high ORAC value, but we don't know what other effects, good or bad, they have on tissues and organs. Therefore I do not think, with the limited medical resources and funds most people have, and most countries have, it is worthwhile to spend money on checking blood levels of antioxidants. I think people are getting too many tests without considering the fact that their health or overall longevity is not likely to change much as a result of taking these tests.

Would you say it is safe to have approx. 10,000 ORAC units of cacao with breakfeast, 4,000 ORAC units of tumeric with lunch, and 6,000 units with dinner, because if I add this cacao to my diet that's what it would be and since I have read that more than 5,000 ORAC units per day is overkill is it also dangerous in your opinion?
    ORAC value has nothing to do with the safety of a substance.