Before we get started with the delicious Gingered Plum Smoothie recipe and video, we have a little nutrition lesson.
If the prospect of that bores you, bear with me.
Our little lesson involves having better skin, a healthier heart, and REDUCED cancer risk, for goodness' sake! Who doesn't want that?
And at the end of all this, I promise you something summery and sweet.
Today's Topic: what is the ORAC value system?
You may have heard this term thrown around, especially when it comes to plant kingdom heavy hitters such as blueberries and kale.
ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. Foods are given an ORAC value based upon how effective they are when placed in a test tube with molecules that generate free radical activity or are vulnerable to oxidation.
OK, let's back up. What are free radicals, exactly?
As described in this handy beginner's guide to antioxidants from Rice University, free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons and can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Once formed, these highly reactive radicals can start a chain reaction that can damage DNA or the cell membrane. In short, free radicals pave the pathways for cellular damage associated with aging, cancer, and disease. Free radicals: no bueno!
This is where antioxidants come in.
The ORAC values depicts how well a food can safely interact with the free radicals, and neutralize the chain reaction before damage is done. In other words, antioxidants are kind of like a cellular bomb squad, working calmly and steadily to diffuse the situation and restore peace.
This is why a diet high in antioxidants — ideally from natural sources like fruits and vegetables — has been associated with reduced risk for cancer, heart disease, stroke, and a longer life span. Antioxidants also help support eye health and younger looking skin.
The Top-Ranked ORAC Foods
After they figure out what the ORAC system is, most people want to know which foods rank at the top. In other words, who are the ORAC rockstars?
Ranking systems vary, but here are some of the undisputed winners:
- Wild blueberries
- Goji berries
- Dark chocolate (unsweetened cacao powder)
- Kidney beans
- Acai berries
Spices and herbs are even more powerful, including clove, cinnamon, oregano and turmeric.
If you want to see what a top 10 looks like, you can check out this rundown on Dr. Axe's site.
Many topics in the nutrition world come with a side of drama or controversy, and the ORAC system is no exception. It was hijacked by the supplement industry to peddle super-juices and supplements that were designed to offer an off-the-charts ORAC rating. The question of whether these lab-born foods or supplements were as effective as real food was left unanswered. And, after much abuse of ORAC-related marketing, the USDA pulled the ORAC charts from its website.
Still, I believe the ORAC system can be helpful as you make your dietary decisions while grocery shopping or ordering food in restaurants. When you make a blueberry smoothie or put some artichokes on your salad, you can be confident you're getting more bang for your nutritional buck.
When Not to ORAC
That said, the ORAC system doesn't need to drive all of your dietary decisions. As the Nutrition Diva, Dr. Monica Reinagel, wrote on Scientific American, it's not fun when you start to feel like you're in a contest to see who can eat the most antioxidants.
Yes, we know we should all eat healthy.
And most of us get that we should eat to live — as opposed to live to eat.
After all, I coach my clients to avoid using food as comfort, or as entertainment, or as a substitute for any other unfulfilled desires in their lives.
However, even if we're eating to live, it's still possible that food can be healthful and entertaining and comforting. Even if that food has a moderate ORAC ranking.
Which brings me to one of my most popular recipes, the Gingered Plum Smoothie.
Meet the Gingered Plum Smoothie
Our typical, farmers market plum probably isn't going to be marketed as a superfood. The black plum gets a little more love, but superfoodies don't get all hot for it, like they do for acai berries or turmeric.
The truth is, the plum ranks in the middle, alongside the apple and the pear.
However, that doesn't mean you should always choose blueberries over plums. Give yourself a break. You don't always have to be an ORAC overachiever.
Local and seasonal produce is one of the joys of summer. Especially plums, which aren't typically grown overseas and stocked in supermarkets year-round.
Plums are delicious and refreshing and sweet-tart. And their season is woefully short.
So get them while you can, and whip up this special Gingered Plum Smoothie.
Buy a whole big bag of beautiful plums and let them ripen until they're juicy and sweet. Then pit them and quarter them and freeze them so you can enjoy this smoothie right away — or on some day in the weeks and months ahead, when you need a little hit of summer.
I'll definitely be stockpiling frozen plums. Because I live in Portland, Oregon. The land of rain.
Having some plums in the freezer, and blending them with freshly grated ginger and a couple of other ingredients, is like taking the hot-tub time machine back to lazy Saturday mornings spent at the farmers market, sampling stone fruit and berries and buying immense $5 bouquets of dahlias, wishing summer could last forever.
Ready for the Gingered Plum Smoothie Recipe?
Great! Just click on the graphic below to watch the video, as I demo the smoothie on More Good Day Oregon.
Gingered Plum Smoothie Video