Antioxidants in Spices and Herbs   

Antioxidants in Spices and Herbs


Question :
Why does a sliced apple turn brown gradually?
Answer :
The compounds found in apples react with oxygen molecules.
The oxidized compound will then turn brown.

If your food produces undesirable flavors, rancid odors,
discoloration (like the ‘browned’ apple) and/or other forms of spoilage, then it is probably being oxidized when exposed to the air!!

If your food produces undesirable flavors, rancid odors,
discoloration (like the ‘browned’ apple) and/or other forms of spoilage, then it is probably being oxidized when exposed to the air!! Many efforts have been taken to prevent the oxidative deterioration of foods. Among them, antioxidants have been widely used to effectively extend the shelf life of various foods.

Pssst… did you know that the antioxidant is also known for their capacity to protect our cells from damage induced by oxidative stress? This will then protect us from aging, degenerative diseases and cancer!!

Although synthetic antioxidants are very effective and highly stable, their use as food additives is sometimes banned in the country due to its harmful effects on the enzymes of human organs. As a result, there is a worldwide interest in finding new and safe antioxidants from natural sources such as herbs and spices – yes, the ingredients you used in cooking, potpourri...

Who knows that they could actually help to maintain the food’s quality and color enhance the flavor and aroma of the foods as well as providing health benefits to the consumers! WOW, kill three huge birds with one tiny stone!

What are the anti-oxidant-rich spices and herbs?
From many studies conducted on the natural antioxidants, herbs belonging to the family of Lamiaceae or Labiatae such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, marjoram, sage and peppermint are the most promising sources.


1. The extracts of rosemary leaves are the most effective.
2. The components have since been isolated and determined to be carnosol, ursolic acid and rosmanol. Two additional diterpene antioxidants have also been isolated and
characterized as rosmaridiphenol and rosmariquinone.
3. These components prevent the LDL (low-density
lipoprotein) oxidation, thus inhibiting an important step in
the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Experiment on rat
showed that rosemary extracts have potential to protect
mouse liver and stomach cells from carcinogenic/toxic

Peppermint, sage, thyme, oregano

Contain luteolin while oregano contains galangin and
quercetin, all of them are anti-mutagens that work against
a carcinogenic heterocyclic amine formed during cooking of


A herb close to oregano in morphological classification and
also containing phenolic compounds similar to those found
in oregano.

The Ginger Family

1. Rhizomes of the Zingiberaceae (The ginger family – ginger, turmeric, cardamom…)
2. Ginger shows extremely high activity
3. Turmeric (a.k.a kunyit) and its component (curcumin which is responsible for its distinctive colour) have shown to have antioxidant properties due to its phenolic compounds. It acts as a radical scavenging antioxidant with modest reactivity. They also found that dietary turmeric lowers lipid peroxidation by enhancing the activities of antioxidant

Sesame seeds

1. Widely cultivated for its oil-rich seeds that come in a variety of colors, ranging from cream-white to charcoal-black.
2. Sesame seed oil has been known to exhibit higher stability to oxidative deterioration than other vegetable oils. It has been believed that sesamol, a phenolic compound derived from sesamolin protects the oils from peroxidation!

Other herbs/spices:
Anise, pepper, mace, nutmeg, paprika, lemon balm, clove,
cinnamon, coriander as well as the yummy curry blends.


The natural antioxidants are receiving much attention now,
especially those isolated from herbs and spices. This is because they can prevent not only deterioration in foods, but also inflammation, cancer and aging in human organs. The antioxidant levels can be increased by using a combination of spices in addition to your fruits and vegetables. Try adding some herbs and spices to your stir-fries, stews, soups, marinades and dips so that your diet can become more healthful! Just be creative and remember the prevention begins from herbs and spices!


Happy reading,

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