Herbs And Antioxidants

    Posted before Dec-31-2007

The presence of powerful antioxidants in many familiar herbs has been detected in a new clinical study. The results of the clinical study suggests that there is a way to obtain all the antioxidants deemed necessary for good health by regularly eating some very common herbs in the diet without the need to resort to the consumption of pills or by including a large quantity of different fruits and vegetables in the diet. Herbs have been found to be ideal sources for antioxidants in the study carried out at the institute; herbs not only help add a zing to most staple foods - they appear to be the best sources for all the major antioxidant compounds. Antioxidants are found in higher quantities in herbs than in fruits and vegetables according to the results of this recent study - this study suggests that herbs can greatly reduce the necessity of consuming a lot of fruits and vegetables to get antioxidant compounds. The regular use of different types of common flavoring herbs when cooking food may be the best investment to gain health based on the results of the study.

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Culinary herbs and antioxidants

These new insights on the antioxidant content of common herbs were gained in the course of a clinical study conducted at the Agricultural Research Center of the US Department of Agriculture, in Beltsville, MD. During the course of the study, the scientist of the agricultural department measured the phenolic content of twenty seven commonly used culinary herbs and compared them to the phenolic content in twelve common medicinal herbs - the antioxidant activity displayed by these herbs was also studied comparatively at the same time. The scientists found that the medicinal herbs displayed strong antioxidant actions as expected. These herbs include familiar herbs such as the periwinkle, the gingko biloba herb, the garden sage and the St. John's wort herb, as well as the valerian and the sweet Annie herbs. It was the antioxidant power displayed by the fresh culinary herbs that really surprised the scientists. The common culinary herbs were found to display the most potent antioxidant actions, indeed, plain old oregano was found to be the most potent of all the common herbs.

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In fact, the common oregano was found to be truly remarkable in terms of its antioxidant activity. In sheer antioxidant content, the common condiment was found to have an antioxidant content that was forty two times that of apples, about thirty times the content of potatoes. This high antioxidant content of the oregano was also remarkable compared to good sources of antioxidants such as oranges and blueberries. When compared to oranges, oregano had twelve times the antioxidant content, and at least four times the content of blueberries. As a source of antioxidants, this translates into the same amount of antioxidant per tablespoon of fresh oregano as one medium sized apple; which means the same benefits and free radical fighting compounds can be obtained from eating just a single tablespoon of oregano obtainable only from eating a whole apple. The highest antioxidant compounds were also found in oregano compared to the other herbs measured in the study, the content was three to twenty times that found in other herbs measured during the study. At the same time, the other herbs measured for antioxidant activity in the study such as the rosemary, the dill and the thyme, as well as the peppermint herb all showed good antioxidant content. The study therefore confirms that commonly used culinary herbs have strong antioxidant activities and can be a major source of antioxidants.

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The benefits of fresh herbs

Dried herbs have been used around the world since historical times to flavor all kinds of culinary preparations. In fact, dried herbal seasonings were one of the first culinary innovations of humans as it enabled mankind to preserve fresh herbs and other foods for long periods of time. In the world today, most seasonings are also primarily made up of dried herbs. However, the scientist who conducted the study, suggest the use of fresh herbs as seasoning to gain the greatest amount of antioxidants from culinary herbs. Drying of herbs tends to deplete the concentration of antioxidant compounds in the herbs and therefore, the use of only dried herbs will not be sufficient to give a person all the antioxidants he or she requires to fend off free radicals in the body. The use of fresh herbs in place of dried herbal products is not common and different people will need some time to adapt the palate accordingly - however, it is the healthier choice. Herbs are also easy grow in a house garden or in pots, when this is not an option, fresh herbs can also be sourced from the market. In fact, different fresh herbs are now available at many of grocery stores in Europe and North America. Fresh herbs are also easy to work into any cuisine, and can be mixed with familiar recipes and different types of foods. Fresh herbs can be used in the same manner and in roughly the same proportions to season different dishes. Any culinary recipe that is seasoned using a single teaspoon of a dried herb, may be seasoned using just one tablespoon of chopped fresh herb. The fresh herb will bring out the same flavors and the dish will not taste any different except for being healthier.

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Using fresh herbs

Herbs may be refrigerated and stored in this way for up to five days without them losing any of their flavor or freshness. The ideal way to store herbs and retain freshness is to use damp paper towels and leave them sealed in airtight plastic bags inside the fridge. Fresh herbs are not to be used as a complete substitute for the fruits and vegetables that are a normal part of the diet - they are only to be seen as additional sources of nutrients. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is still necessary as such foods benefit the body in many other ways aside from their role as antioxidant sources. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a rich source of many essential phytochemicals needed for health; at the same time, being full of vital vitamins and essential minerals, as well as being the only source of dietary fiber - they are indispensable in a complete diet. Fresh herbs are recommended as a daily supplemental food not to act as substitutes for fruits and veggies in the diet but as additions that will help bring up the antioxidant levels in the body while adding flavor and fullness to every meal.

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