Use Spices to Increase Antioxidants in Your Diet

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • Generally when you think about where to get antioxidants in your diet, it’s likely you picture fruit and vegetables. For example, berries are rich in antioxidants as well as dark green leafy vegetables. Red wine and dark chocolate may even come to mind as antioxidant sources.


    Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by free radicals leading to oxidative stress. It’s believed a diet rich in antioxidants may provide protective benefits to fight against chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.


    Some examples of antioxidants include beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and resveratrol.

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    Often overlooked antioxidant sources include several herbs and spices.


    Antioxidants in Oregano

    Oregano is widely used in Mexican and Mediterranean dishes. It comes from the dried leaves of a small flowering shrub that is cultivated worldwide.


    Oregano contains phytochemicals thymol and rosmarinic, as well as humalogs from the antioxidant vitamin E. Research has found oregano to have the highest total antioxidant capacity and phenolic content when compared to sage, mint, rosemary, sweet basil, and thyme. It’s possible oregano increases brain antioxidant activity.


    Oregano can be used in more dishes than just pizza and spaghetti sauce. It can be used in sandwiches, casseroles, and salad dressings.


    Antioxidants in Clove

    Clove comes from the dried flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. Clove is most used in the preparation ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.


    Clove provides polyphenolic compounds and plant-based compounds believed to act as antioxidants. Research has shown clove to inhibit damaging oxidative processes.


    Ground clove can be used in ways similar to cinnamon and ginger, such as stirred into applesauce or oatmeal. Clove may also be added to baked goods, such as muffins, cookies, and sweet breads.


    Antioxidants in Cinnamon

    Cinnamon is derived from the dried inner bark of various evergreen trees. Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde. Research has found cinnamon to have a greater antioxidant effect than spinach, red cabbage, chard, and Jerusalem artichoke.


    Cinnamon can be used in numerous ways. You can sprinkle cinnamon on foods and mix it into drinks, such as milk. Cinnamon is an easy option to add sweetness without adding sugar.


    Antioxidants in Your Diet

    Research has clearly identified herbs and spices as a rich source of antioxidants. However, the exact protective health benefits linked to different herbs and spices needs further research. For example, at this point you can’t say eating 1 teaspoon of cinnamon everyday on your oatmeal will lower your LDL cholesterol X percent.


    Instead of focusing on adding one spice to your diet, work to use a variety of herbs and spices to boost you antioxidant intake for the protective benefits.  Using herbs and spices in the foods you cook is a simple way to give your daily antioxidant intake a boost.


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Published On: July 16, 2012