You can think of your cells as having little engines. Burning the fuel we put in to run. And just like car engines create toxic exhaust, our cells create toxic free radicals as part of their energy generating process.
Build up too much free radical exhaust, and you start to cause problems. Excess free radicals promote the development of chronic and degenerative ailments such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, aging, autoimmune disorders and even neurocognitive decline.
Antioxidants nullify free radicals. And because free radical production goes way up after we eat, having a diet full of antioxidants is the most direct and effective way to combat free radical accumulation.
Antioxidant content is measured using the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale. ORAC values tend to be highest for spices and berries (in the tens of thousands of units) and lower for highly processed grains (in the hundreds). Non-plant-based foods (like fish, beef and chicken) are lower still.
So how many ORAC units do you need per day? It is estimated that men, who consume an average of about 2500 calories a day need at least 11,000 ORAC units. Women, who eat about 1800 calories per day, should get at least 8,000 units.
How do you get to those ORAC amounts? Just eat lots of fruits and vegetables? It’s not as straightforward as you think. For example, let’s say that as part of your total food intake, you:
- ate a whole banana during breakfast,
- had a salad with iceberg lettuce, a half cup ofcucumber slices and some canned peaches during lunch,
- and a serving of peas and carrots, half a cup of snap peas and another salad for dinner topped off with a cup of watermelon for dessert
That’s nine servings of fruits and vegetables but only 2700 ORAC units, Turns out it’s not just quantity but QUALITY that matters.
Two servings of Step One Foods will provide you with over 5000 ORAC units. Add in a cup of blueberries, some dark leafy greens in your salad and a good dose of oregano in your spaghetti sauce and you’re well over 20,000 for the day. Which is a good thing. because those minimum antioxidant estimates don’t account for other free radical generators – like pollution, stress and illness. You can never have too many antioxidants and Step One Foods is a great insurance policy on getting enough of these each and every day.