ORAC, antioxidant levels of fruits

Of course, figs aren’t the only healthy fruit. Among fresh fruits, blackcaps (black raspberries) have an antioxidant value that is unusually high, as measured by the ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity).

Berries and other fruits touted as a “superfruit” or a nutraceutical, or a medicinal food, sometimes are listed by their promoters as being higher than any other fruit in lists of impressive fruits, but what is sometimes left out are the other types of fruits (let alone other foods) that have even higher ORAC (antioxidant) levels. I’ve seen this done with haskap berries, aronia berries, goji berries, and others. Blueberries too have long been touted as a top superfruit, and “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” The health benefits of very many fruits and foods are high and various.

Curiously, in cold growing zones, the most unpromoted, undervalued “superfruit” – with first-rate fresh flavor no less – appears to be blackcaps (black raspberries). Blackcaps have higher antioxidant levels than the other highest fruits, such as the widely touted superfruits, aronia and elderberry (let alone blueberry, strawberry, goji berry,..). And blackcaps, like red raspberries, are typically considered to be far more flavorful and sweeter than aronia and elderberry. Why then the relative silence on blackcaps, especially since they are so naturally widespread in the US and readily grown? Aronia and elderberry seem to be far more easily harvested in bulk, which might explain the lack of attention for blackaps. The superior antioxidant berry goes unpromoted and overlooked.

Blackcaps (black raspberries) are often confused with blackberries because relatively similar in look and flavor. The antioxidant level of blackcaps is more than 3 times greater than both blackberries and (red) raspberries. Blackcaps and blackberries are easy to tell apart, after first glance or firsthand (little hairs, no core as with a red raspberry, hard red when unripe):
Antioxidant levels of blackcaps appear to exceed every other fruit that can be grown in zone 5 or 6 or colder, usually by a lot, including aronia and elderberry. (Lingonberry is a fruit for cold zones that barely edges out blackcaps but is far less flavorful and far less widely found. Rosehips are an extreme and odd exception.)

Partial list below of ORAC values, and longer list at link:

Fresh fruit ORAC value – oxygen radical absorbance capacity – antioxidant level per 100 grams / 3.5 ounces
highest to lowest (growing zones 5 or 6 or colder)

  1. 96,150 rosehip 
  2. 20,300 lingonberry 
  3. 19,220 blackcap (black raspberry) 
  4. 16,062 aronia 
  5. 15,000 juneberry (saskatoon, serviceberry) 
  6. 14,697 elderberry 
  7. 11,000? haskap (blue honeysuckle)
  8. 9,621 wild blueberry 
  9. 9,090 cranberry 
  10. 7,957 black currant 
  11. 7,581 black diamond plum  
  12. 6,100 red plum
  13. 5,905 blackberry 
  14. 5,650? jostaberry
  15. 5,065 (red) raspberry 
  16. 4,669 blueberry
  17. 4,580 seaberry
  18. 4,479 pomegranate
  19. 4,302 strawberry
  20. 4,275 red delicious apple 
  21. 3,898 granny smith apple
  22. 3,747 cherry, sweet 
  23. 3,387 red currant
  24. 3,383 fig
  25. 3,332 gooseberry
  26. 3,290 goji 
  27. 3080 apples
  28. 2941 pears

below 3,000, many other fruits … grapes, kiwi, peach, apricot, citrus, banana, etc… 
[acai 73,000 (zone 10), maqui 19,850 (zone 7), Indian gooseberry 12,227 (zone 9)…]

Dried fruits are concentrated, so have higher ORAC values, for example, 10,045 golden raisin, 3,406 raisin. All these levels vary somewhat in tests and can vary somewhat based on growing and harvest conditions. 

ORAC values of some grains, spices, nuts, beans are also high, followed by vegetables:

A dark chocolate promoting website notes the following about ORAC values:
The United States Department of Agriculture, in 2007, published the ORAC Scores of common foods. ORAC … is a way to measure the capacity of a food to fight health-damaging free radicals.  Or so it was thought”:
“In 2010 the USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL) removed the USDA ORAC Database for Selected Foods from the NDL website. ORAC values are routinely misused by food and dietary supplement manufacturing companies to promote their products and by consumers to guide their food and dietary supplement choices. We know now that antioxidant molecules in food have a wide range of functions, many of which are unrelated to the ability to absorb free radicals.

2 thoughts on “ORAC, antioxidant levels of fruits

  1. I’d be interested to learn sometime how processing — specifically, cooking into jam — affects ORAC levels. I bet that a person could make a wonderfully flavorful jam from rosehips. When it comes to flavor, rosehips are intolerably potent when fresh, but so much the better for jam. How much of the antioxidant properties would the processed fruit retain? That’s the question for me.


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