Herbs have higher antioxidant activity than fruits, vegetables and some spices, including garlic, the researchers say. Their findings appear in a recent (Nov.) print issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the worlds largest scientific society.
Some herbs should be considered as regular vegetables, says Shiow Y. Wang, Ph.D., the studys lead researcher and a biochemist with the USDAs Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Md. People should use more herbs for flavoring instead of salt and artificial chemicals.
Using various chemical tests, Wang studied and compared the antioxidant activity of 39 commonly used herbs grown in the same location and conditions. The study, which did not involve animal or human subjects, included 27 culinary and 12 medicinal herbs.
In what may be good news for pizza lovers and Italian food connoisseurs everywhere, the herbs with the highest antioxidant activity belonged to the oregano family. In general, oregano had 3 to 20 times higher antioxidant activity than the other herbs studied, says Wang.
On a per gram fresh weight basis, oregano and other herbs ranked even higher in antioxidant activity than fruits and vegetables, which are known to be high in antioxidants. In comparison to the antioxidant activities of a few select fruits and vegetables, the potency of oregano ranks supreme: Oregano has 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries, Wang says.