by Jim / Jason

Jim Labadie: Jayson there is a lot of confusion as to what Antioxidants are and how they can help us? What are Free Radicals and Antioxidants?

Jayson Hunter: Well, our bodies are made of atoms and these atoms need a full outer shell of electrons to be happy peaceful atoms. When this happens they tend to not enter into chemical reactions and just enjoy life.

Those atoms that do NOT have a full outer shell of electrons are considered unstable and unhappy. These unstable atoms are called Free Radicals

When free radicals are in the body they attempt to steal electrons from whatever molecules that happen to be around them. So then that molecule becomes a free radical now. This process will just keep happening over and over.

In moderation these free radicals are not bad because as our body performs the many functions it has to perform each and every day these free radicals will be created. It is just a part of the process. The problem lies in the amount of free radicals that can start to accumulate and get too high. This is where you can run into major problems and research has linked numerous diseases and health issues to these free radicals.

A common type of free radicals is something called oxygen free radicals. These are oxygen atoms that are missing an electron. A perfect example is a piece of metal that has rust on it. This is called oxidative stress and this will start to cause damage inside your body.

Jim: So what causes Free Radicals?

Jayson: Basically anything that has to do with living can cause free radicals. Any stress we put on our bodies can cause free radicals. Other sources are polluted air, stressful event, carcinogenic foods. Even “healthy” activities can create free radicals such as intense exercise.

I am sure you are now asking yourself why should we even exercise if there is damage we are causing. My answer to you is because there is a way to neutralize these free radicals and make them harmless.

How do turn a free radical into a harmless cell you ask?

It is actually really simple. You give it the extra electron that it is looking for.

Well, what supplies this extra electron?

That is easy too: Antioxidants

Antioxidants are any substance that can prevent or slow down the oxidation process. Free radicals cause oxidation and antioxidants prevent oxidation so free radicals are essentially neutralized or deemed harmless. Antioxidants will donate an electron to a free radical so that it becomes a stable oxygen molecule again.

Jim: So what does ORAC have to do with all of this? You see ORAC associated with these foods and supplements, but what does it mean?

Jayson: ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. ORAC measures the ability of any substance to subdue oxygen free radicals in the test tube. To summarize, ORAC is a lab test that can measure the antioxidant activity of any substance and give it a number. The higher this ORAC number from the test the stronger the antioxidant properties of that substance.

The National Institute on aging developed the ORAC method and both the US Department of Agriculture and Brunswick Labs have been very instrumental in perfecting the ORAC testing procedure and testing various foods to determine ORAC levels.

The science behind ORAC is very in depth and can’t all be explained in this interview, but the basic premise is you want foods with greater antioxidant properties. You should look for foods with high ORAC levels. The USDA recommends that we consume 3,000-5,000 ORAC units a day.

In reality only 80% of the population is consuming less than 1,000 ORAC units a day. Now if you were to follow the USDA recommended 5 fruits and vegetables a day motto you would be getting around 1,750 units so that also proves that we don’t get even close to 5 fruits and vegetables a day. It is probably more like 2 fruits and vegetables total in a day.

Fruits and vegetables tend to have the highest ORAC values. 1/2 a medium apple gives you a score of 218, 1 small banana is 221, and 3/4 cup of blueberries gets you 2,400. And what about fresh Acai berry? Acai has an amazing 5,500 ORAC score.


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