Updated 14 February 2013

Antioxidants to spice up your health

Did you know that cinnamon, cloves and cumin are all sources of antioxidants which can transform quick-fix suppers or rushed lunches?

Did you know that cinnamon, cloves and cumin are all sources of antioxidants which can transform quick-fix suppers or rushed lunches?

According to Australia’s Sanitarium Nutrition Service oregano, parsley, basil and mustard seeds are also a major source of antioxidants that protect the body and fight off free radicals. For example, one teaspoon of cloves has more antioxidants than half a cup of blueberries and one teaspoon of cinnamon has more antioxidants than 240ml pomegranate juice.

Fruit and vegetables are the number one source of antioxidants but we don’t always get enough into our daily diets thanks to busy lifestyles and bad nutritional habits. 

Protection from cell damage

Antioxidants, including polyphenols, contain a range of protective effects on health as they protect the body’s cells from damage caused by an excess of free radicals or scavengers.

Compounds formed during the body’s normal metabolic processes - free radicals - can inflict damage when they react with cellular components such as DNA, or cell membrane. Their effect can be accelerated by external factors such as stress, smoking, alcohol and pollution. They are also thought to be involved in the ageing process.

Vitamins C and E are well known antioxidants, but there are numerous others.

People would be surprised by the number foods and beverages that contain essential antioxidants. For instance, look out for beverages such as coffee which a good source of antioxidants because of the serving size and frequency of consumption.

Reduced cancer risk

Nutritional experts say people should enjoy their coffee in moderation: generally 3 – 5 cups a day are considered beneficial, though, it is by no means a substitute for fruits and vegetables.

Fruit and vegetables with the brightest colours contain more vitamins and minerals. Berries come up trumps as the leaders in antioxidants. Other popular choices include oranges and grapefruits.

In general, antioxidants are linked to a number of potential health benefits which help reduce the risk of some cancers, cognitive impairment, arthritis, immune dysfunction and cardiovascular diseases.

Foods we love such as dark chocolate are also good sources of antioxidants. So it goes to show things we enjoy such as our morning coffee and chocolate offer us health benefits.

(Sources: Australia's Sanatarium Nutrition Service, Nestlé South Africa)

- (Compiled by Birgit Ottermann, Health24, June 2010)

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