Best Antioxidant Foods And ORAC Values

A bowl of acai berries and bran flakes with milk.

Antioxidants in food are measured using a scale called oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) Values. The ORAC value given to an organic substance represents its antioxidant capabilities. The higher the score, the better – currently, the highest known ORAC score belongs to sorghum, at 312,400.


Some foods contain elements that can reverse the oxidation process. Oxidation happens when body cells become unbalanced and change into free radicals.

Like all molecules, molecules that make up the body consist of a proton orbited by pairs of electrons. An oxidised molecule loses one of its electrons. Antioxidants are elements that the body uses to reverse oxidisation and repair damaged cells, hence the name.


This is our definition of an antioxidant (for an in-depth report, head to

‘A naturally occurring substance found in food and other organic substances that prevent and reverse harmful oxidation of cells in the body.’

Another article goes deeper into the process of oxidation and how antioxidants reverse the process.


Many foods contain abundant levels of antioxidants; some of them are exotic and from far-flung corners of the world, and others not so much. We’re not going to list the entire ORAC value of every food here, just a few you’ll recognise and a few you may not.

When looking at a food’s ORAC score, try not to become blinkered. The ORAC value is only one element that determines how good it is for you; antioxidants are an essential part of any diet, but they are not the be-all and end-all.

Always try to incorporate different elements into a diet that keep it balanced and enjoyable. A well-balanced diet should consist of all the food groups and other flavours. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle should involve consistency; bingeing on turmeric powder for a week a year won’t benefit your health.

Here are a few foods and their relative ORAC scores to start the ball rolling:


  • Broccoli 3,083
  • Pomegranate juice 2,681
  • Golden Delicious Apples 2,670
  • Cauliflower 2,210
  • Oranges 2,103


To give a little perspective on these values, the USDA recommends a daily intake of about 3,000 ORAC. So, it’s immediately evident that eating a portion of açai berries or mangosteen juice will do the trick.


Free radicals start as a normal cell in the body; when oxidation occurs, the cell loses one of its electrons. Electrons are always in pairs, so when a molecule has an odd number of electrons, it becomes unstable.

When a cell has an odd number of electrons, it becomes a destructive force in the body. So the immune system borrows an electron from antioxidant properties in the body and replaces it with the unstable free radical; this stabilises the cell and returns to normal.

A rich supply of antioxidants in the body means that as oxidation occurs, the body has the elements necessary to repair them. However, if left, free radicals can mutate and become the start of serious diseases.


Polyphenols act in a similar way to antioxidants. They protect the body from free radicals, which can, in turn, lead to other illnesses. Polyphenols can also reduce the levels of certain enzymes that cancers need to grow. The same polyphenol that is most associated with the prevention of cancer is called epigallocatechin-3-gallate.

Polyphenols are elements that prevent oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to severe medical conditions, including cardiovascular diseases and neurological disorders.

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