Do you know your food’s ORAC value?

(Courtesy image)

(Courtesy image)

Kaily Sanders

College brings responsibility, challenges and opportunity for growth. Oh and not to mention, late nights and partying that cannot be left out of the “college experience.”

Many students find themselves tired, stressed or sick more often than not, and it all relates back to the immunity health. In general, regular exercise, healthy sleeping patterns and a balanced diet are best ways to keep your immune system in optimal health.

“Exercise and sleep are probably the two things that students do not do enough of,” said Mitch Charlens, basketball coach and health instructor at City College.

Even if we do not have time to work out every day, or find it impossible to turn down a night of partying, there are plenty of foods we can add to our diet to boost our immune system. Foods that are high in antioxidants, like certain fruits, vegetables and beans, can help fight free radicals, prevent illnesses and fight off cell damage that can lead to cancer.

The measure of antioxidants in foods is referred to as the Oxygen Radical Absorbant Capacity (ORAC) value. The ORAC value refers to fresh, raw, and unprocessed foods. Meaning that foods lose a large percentage of their ORAC value when cooked or modified, so try to consume them in raw form if possible.

For instance, herbs and spices have the highest levels of antioxidants, however when we cook with them or make tea, their ORAC value may decrease. Even if we cook them, adding herbs and spices like cloves, sumac, cinnamon, oregano and tumeric to our diet will greatly increase the health of our immune system.

Some foods with high ORAC values are acai berries, red kidney beans, blueberries, garlic, strawberries and raspberries, just to name a few. Try to stick to raw, colorful fruits and vegetables in order to get the most nutrients and antioxidants. If you do have to cook them, steam them. This will remove the least amount of nutrients and antioxidants.

Another way to greatly improve the immune system health is to avoid smoking, drinking and using drugs. Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to immune deficiency, which in turn can lead to many life-threatening illnesses. Smoking also increases our susceptibility to infections, as well as lowers the levels of antioxidants in the bloodstream.

It’s all fun and games now, but these actions will negatively affect you later in life.

“Realize that all that stuff will catch up to you,” said Charlens. “You don’t want to spend the last 20 years of your life in pain because you haven’t taken care of you body, you haven’t taken care of your immune system, you haven’t eaten the right foods.”