We know that dark chocolate, the richer in cocoa the better, is not only a tasty treat, it is actually good for you. And just an ounce of a very healthy chocolate packs more than twice the healthy antioxidants punch of red wine and other dark chocolates. Cocoa is rich in antioxidant flavonoids called flavanols, […]
Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity or ORAC
ORAC does not stand for Orgasmic Reactions Around Chocolate (although many people think so) but it does stand for Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity.
The ORAC test is the measuring of chocolate and other fruits and vegetable’s antioxidant abilities using modern science. ORAC is now considered a standard and most reliable way to determine the potency of the antioxidants found in cocoa, acai berry and other foods. Research using the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) test in combination with other scientific assays have helped uncover the broad spectrum of antioxidant activity in many different foods, showing us which are the most readily available antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables.
Since cold processed dark cacao (or chocolate) has tested as one of the highest in antioxidant compounds, including polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanins and catechins and has the reputation as an aphrodisiac it has gotten the other ORAC meaning (Orgasmic Reactions Around Chocolate) to become more and more common .
So, what does the ORAC test really measure? And why do you care?
It’s the “radical” part that you probably interests you. There are currently six classes of free radicals linked to chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer. They are sometimes called ROS or Reactive Oxygen Species. The ORAC, Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity test (or assay) was developed at the National Institutes of Aging and further developed by independent laboratories. One of the most prestigious independent labs that has furthered the ORAC test is Brunswick Laboratories based in Massachusetts. In fact, Brunswick has received a Patent Notice of Allowance from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for its well-known ORAC assay. Their ORAC test has become the international testing standard for antioxidant capacity, particularly for natural products such as botanical-based ingredients and consumer food products. The ORAC test has been adopted by the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging and is used extensively in antioxidant and oxidative stress research.
Which sounds all impressive, but what does it all mean to you and me?
Most everyone knows that cancer is associated with abnormal cell development which in many cases is caused by oxidation and free radical damage. Free radicals and oxidation have been linked to more than 200 diseases including the development of different types of cancer. Research linking free radicals and disease is growing steadily. In fact, some experts estimate that more than 80% of debilitating disease is related to the effects of free radicals. Some of those conditions include: heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, cataracts, arthritis, cancer, alzheimer’s/dementia, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, lung disease, autoimmune dysfunction, fibromyalgia and more.
Antioxidants are thought to be molecules which prevent the damaging effects of free radicals in the body. The damage of caused by oxygen free radicals is called oxidation. An example of oxidation is when bananas turn brown when you leave them on a countertop or the rusting of iron. And antioxidant is an enzyme or other organic molecule that can counter-act the damaging effects of free oxygen radicals in tissues, or molecules that protect the body from any free radical. The presence of antioxidants in the body can “mop up” free oxygen radicals before they damage other essential molecules.
It seems, antioxidants need to be consistently replaced in your body throughout the day. It’s better to have servings of fruits and vegetables at every meal rather than once a day. Less than 10% of Americans are consuming the necessary fruits and vegetables recommended by the USDA to obtain the necessary antioxidants their bodies need to fight off the damaging effects of free radicals. The exact antioxidant test numbers are not the important factor, but whether it works or not. The ORAC test is just an easy way to compare which type of functional foods are high in antioxidant nutrients and to give you a guide to the choices of food you may like to eat. It is always more likely that someone will stay on a regimen of good eating habits if they like what they are eating.
Orgasmic Reactions Around Chocolate or ORAC makes it easier to add antioxidants as part of a well balanced meal. Whether you eat broccoli, beets, kidney beans or dark chocolate, just be sure that you get the amounts of daily antioxidants you need for your best health and you will boost your body’s ability to counter oxidative stress and the many illnesses associated with that stress.
As you go through your day, make the better choices. Choose red wine over white, raw or lightly steamed broccoli over deep fat fried and, instead of candy chocolate, choose cold processed, unalkalized dark chocolate.