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    Antioxidants – Disease Prevention, Natural Healing, Anti-Aging

    Antioxidants are nutrients that protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. There are thousands of antioxidants contained in plant foods, and each antioxidant nutrient works to prevent the formation of free radicals and neutralize those that are already there. Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms that can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Free radicals are a byproduct of normal cell a number of biological processes. The main danger of free radicals comes from the damage they can do when they react with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane. When this occurs, cells may function poorly or die. Antioxidants are known as free radical scavengers because they are the body’s defense mechanism against free radical damage. Antioxidants play major roles in disease prevention, anti-aging, and healing. When free radicals cause cellular damage, they increase the risk of developing chronic illnesses and conditions such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. Eating rainbow foods, especially those with high levels of antioxidants, is one of the best ways to decrease the risk of chronic illnesses. Antioxidants also play a role in the healing of chronic illnesses due to their ability to neutralize free radicals.

    Antioxidants in Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs and Spices

    The best source of antioxidants is plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, and beans. There are over 5,000 antioxidants and they’re all contained within the various rainbow colors of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouts, grains, teas, and micro-algae. To provide the body with an adequate supply of antioxidants, the regular consumption of rainbow plant foods is recommended. Although most plant foods contain antioxidants in varying amounts, the best food sources of antioxidants are those with vivid colors such as beans, beets, bell peppers, berries, broccoli, carrots, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, mangoes, micro-algae, papaya, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, tea, tomatoes, and watermelon. Eating several of these foods on a daily basis provides a vast array of antioxidants and other nutrients for the body.

    The ORAC Value (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) is a system developed by researchers at the National Institute of Aging as a way to measure the antioxidant capacity of different foods. It is believed that foods higher on the ORAC Value scale are more effective at neutralizing free radicals, particularly due to their high antioxidant content.

    Fruits With the Highest ORAC values

    Of all the fruits that have been tested on the ORAC value scale, berries have the highest level of antioxidant capacity. This includes acai berries, black berries, blueberries, camu camu berries, cherries, cranberries, and goji berries. The berries with the highest ORAC values are acai berries.

    Vegetables With the Higest ORAC Values

    Of all the vegetables that have been tested on the ORAC value scale, beans have the highest level of antioxidant capacity. This includes bean sprouts, which actually have more antioxidant capacity than bean seeds. The beans that scored highest on the ORAC value scale are red beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans.

    Herbs and Spices With the Highest ORAC values

    The herbs and spices that scored the highest on the ORAC value scale are basil, cinnamon, cloves, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric. Cloves have the highest ORAC values of all the herbs and spices tested.

    Although all antioxidants help to protect the body from free radical damage, each antioxidant has it’s own unique set of health benefits. To get the most health benefits from antioxidants, naturopath doctors and health experts recommended eating a wide variety of rainbow plant foods.

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