Which is more important, the Glycemic Index or the ORAC value of a food when you’re trying to manage your weight? The USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University developed the ORAC test.
Can you manage or lose weight by measuring the ability of antioxidants to absorb free radicals? That depends on how large or small your portion size is, what time of day you eat, and the calories needed for energy to do your daily work.
To find out the antioxidant value of any fruit or vegetable, you look at its ORAC value. This is a test that only measures both the degree and speed with which a certain food inhibits those two measurements–the organic compounds in the plant food and the speed at which that food inhibits those measurements into a single value. That produces an accurate assessment of different types of antioxidants that have various strengths.
If you look at the recommendations from the US Dept. of Agriculture, the suggestions are to eat foods equivalent to 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units daily. But is this number fine, or is it too low? As you can see, fruits, particularly some types of berries are much higher in ORAC value than vegetables, but fruits have more sugars. And an organic Russet potato has a high ORAC value but is starchy and quickly turns to sugar in your bloodstream, but it is also high in potassium.
The antioxidant value of Potatoes, russet, flesh and skin, raw described in ORAC units is:
1,322 μ mol TE/100g. The source is the USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2 – Prepared by Nutrient Data Laboratory, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – May 2010.
The ORAC value is expressed in micromoles of Trolox Equivalents per 100 grams of sample (this is the laboratory measure of ORAC). For a list of the ORAC value of many more foods, see, List of ORAC values of food items.
What Foods Are Highest in ORAC Value? (According to Life Extension Magazine, June 2010 issue, page 38.)
Food ORAC Value
Acai berries 18,400
Black Currant 1,160
Red Grapes 1,100
Broccoli flowers 900
Kiwi fruit 900
Red bell pepper 710
Grapefruit, pink 483
What Foods are Low on the Glycemic Index? Eating foods low on the glycemic index may prevent the sugar spikes that pour insulin into your blood, creating problems such as belly fat, metabolic syndrome, and too much insulin in the blood that’s not working properly to balance your sugar levels (blood glucose levels).
The glycemic index is about the quality of the carbohydrates, not the quantity. The measurement of the glycemic index of a food is not related to portion size. It remains the same whether you eat a tablespoon full of a particular food or a cup. You’d want to know how fast or slow the particular food item turns to starch and sugar after you’ve eaten it.
Defining the Glycemic Index
The Glycemic Index is about the quality of the carbohydrates, not the quantity. The measurement of the Glycemic Index of a food is not related to portion size. It remains the same whether you eat a tablespoon full of a particular food or a cup. To make a fair comparison, those who make up some of the tests of the Glycemic Index of food usually use 50 grams of available carbohydrate in each food.
What happens when you eat twice as many carbohydrates in a food that, for example, has a Glycemic Index of 50 than one that has a glycemic index of 100 and have the same blood glucose response? How do you manage your weight? You have to go with portion size and total calories.
Actually, the Glycemic Index indirectly measures a food’s effect on blood sugar. It actually measured the “area under the blood sugar curve” following a set intake of that carb. Not all carbohydrate foods are created equal, in fact they behave quite differently in our bodies.
The glycemic index or GI describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Choosing low GI carbs – the ones that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels – is the secret to long-term health reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes and is the key to sustainable weight loss.
Check out the lists of foods that are low on the glycemic index at the Food & Diet in Diabetes website. For example, peanuts registers a 14 on the Glycemic Index, which is low, whereas a baked potato registers 85, which is high. And ice cream is in the middle at 61 on the Glycemic Index. Look at a comparison chart of foods listed on the Glycemic Index at Glycemic Index – NutritionData.com.
For women, a better way to balance your hormones is to eat foods listed as low on the Glycemic Index and high as far as the food’s ORAC value. One site that lists the actual measurements of the Glycemic Index foods listed there is the Nutrition Data.com site. Check out the Nutrient Search database. Also see the article, “How to Use the Glycemic Index.”
In the year 2000, women were recruited for a 10-month study at the University of California, Davis, to determine how diet affects the risk for osteoporosis. The study compared women who are vegans to those women eating a typical American diet. The 2000 study was jointly sponsored by the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Human Nutrition Research Center, based at UC Davis. Also see the article, “Pregnancy and the vegan diet.”
The Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis has an article in PDF file format online, Some Facts About Vegetarian Diets, that notes, “Eliminating the meat can increase vegetable intake and reduce saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Vegetarians can also turn to many ethnic cuisines, such as Indian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and Asian, for plant-based dishes that include protein in the form of beans, nuts, and higher-protein grains.” Also check out my other Examiner article, Should pregnant women stay on their usual vegan diets?
What foods are lowest on the Glycemic Index?
Low Glycemic Index Foods (55 or less)
Oat bran bread
Converted or Parboiled rice
Al dente (firm) pasta
Medium Glycemic Index Foods (56-69)
Split pea or green pea soup
Shredded wheat cereal
Whole wheat bread
High Glycemic Index Foods
Instant mashed potatoes
Baked white potato