Antioxidants in exotic foods

During the last few years an assorted number of various high priced exotic foods have been marketed as “must buy” foods for optimum health. Entire companies and multilevel marketing businesses have popped up around Goji, Acai, and Mangosteen. What they all have in common is their high antioxidant content. If you’re still wondering exactly what an antioxidant is, the simplified antioxidant theory of health is this: There are molecules called reactive oxygen or nitrogen species (ROS/NOS) that oxidize and damage healthy cells in the body. Cellular damage subsequently decreases overall immunity and results in accelerated aging. Thus, antioxidants, which neutralize these damaging molecules, prevent cellular damage and support longevity.

So, are the latest super foods really all they’re cracked up to be? According to the USDA (which created an antioxidant rating system in response to the antioxidant craze), the Oxygen Radical Absorbence Capacity (ORAC) of Acai Berries is indeed one of the highest of known foods. In fact, 100 grams of dried Acai Berry powder has an ORAC value of over 100,000. By contrast, 100 grams of raw, wild blueberries has an ORAC value of just over 9,600–a drastic difference! Nevertheless, 100 grams isn’t the typical serving size of Acai Berry powder. The recommended serving size is usually 5 grams, which has an ORAC value of 5,000. Thus, if you purchase an 8 oz package of Acai Berries for $39.99 (the going price), each serving costs about $.89. However, at $4.00 per pound, a serving (100 grams) of blueberries also costs $.89 but has an ORAC value of 9,600 instead of 5,000! Based on these calculations, blueberries are a better antioxidant value!

If you were trying to figure out how to fit all the latest high-priced super foods into your budget, there’s more good news: Nearly every type of whole food that comes from plants contains antioxidants. For example, 100 grams of almonds has an ORAC value of 4454, and 100 grams of whole grain bread has a value of 1421. Thus, If you eat the recommended 5-8 servings of fruits of vegetables per day and stick to whole grains, you are already eating a plentiful supply of antioxidants!

Moreover, while a wide range of research indicates that antioxidants do indeed have significant health benefits, antioxidants are only one piece of the overall health puzzle. Whole foods contain hundreds of compounds that researchers are only beginning to unlock. For example, broccoli, which has an ORAC value of 1510, contains other compounds like glucosinolates that are anti-inflamatory, as well as Vitamins C, K, and A. So, there’s no need to hastily purchase the latest exotic food. If you enjoy Acai Berries and don’t mind spending the extra money on them, have it! God made them, and they’re delicious. But if you’re worried about getting enough antioxidants, there’s no single miracle food, and there are plenty of healthy foods that are affordable and locally grown. The important thing is to ensure you’re obtaining all the important nutrients God’s foods provide by eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts .

ORAC ratings were obtained from this USDA study.