It was so good to see my favorite foods top the antioxidant chart. What a great excuse to eat more chocolate! The Agricultural Research Service scientists published the antioxidant capacities of 277 selected foods a few days ago.
A brief introduction to antioxidants: Oxidation is a normal physiological chemical reaction, occurring in every living cell, and critical to life. Oxidation can also be damaging. Oxidative stress occurs when the production of harmful molecules called free radicals is beyond the protective capability of the body’s antioxidant defenses.
Plants and animals maintain complex systems of multiple types of antioxidants, which are substances that are capable of counteracting the damaging process of oxidation. Antioxidants are nutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as enzymes (proteins in your body that assist in chemical reactions) and phytochemicals (molecules, such as Phenols, Terpenes and Flavonoids produced by plants). They are believed to play a role in preventing the development of such chronic diseases as cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, and cataracts.
The study measures antioxidants by the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) method. This is one of the ways you can check the ability of a food to fight against free radicals. The values are expressed in μmol of Trolox Equivalents (TE)/100g.
The top 20: Cloves, cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, cocoa powder, cumin, parsley, basil, baking chocolate, curry, chocolate powder, sage, mustard seed, ginger, black pepper, thyme, marjoram, chili powder, dark chocolate, semisweet chocolate.
But the values these top 20 have are not just high. They are exponentially higher than other antioxidant rich foods. For example: cloves – 314446, cinnamon- 267536, sage- 32004, thyme- 27426, Compare to- 100% pomegranate juice- 2341, blueberries- 6552, blackberries- 5347, apple (red delicious, with skin) – 4275.
By the way, peeling the apple just about halves its antioxidant capacity.
So while I agree it’s not reasonable to eat 100 grams of thyme or cinnamon, you can see that adding just a pinch to your food or drink adds a lot. Herbs and spices are very potent foods.
On the other hand, eating 100 grams of chocolate is no effort at all. The caloric content of chocolate cannot be more different than that of fresh herbs though.