“Antioxidant” has been a nutrition-related buzzword for some time now. We know we are supposed to try to eat foods with a high level of them, but it’s a good idea to know why. Anti-oxidants are molecules which inhibit oxidation. The by-product of oxidation, free radicals, are the culprits for all signs of aging, muscle damage, and even cancer and other serious illnesses. Although the human body produces its own antioxidants, eating a diet high in “superfoods”—foods high in antioxidants—has been said to help slow aging or prevent sickness.
A surprising source of antioxidants are the spices we add to food. These spices have been used for centuries as alternative medicine in all different parts of the world. Use this list of spices as a guide when you’re considering adding antioxidants to your diet!
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1. Chili Powder
Chili peppers are a great source of vitamin C and A, both vitamins with antioxidant properties. The compound that creates the spiciness, capsaicin, has been researched as a cure for many ailments, including cardiovascular issues and diabetes. It is also helpful as a pain reliever and, similar to ginger, to clear sinus passages when dealing with congestion. If you can handle spice, add cayenne, green chili, or any other chili powders to your meals. You can also reap the benefits from the anti-oxidant compounds in hot sauce. If you can’t handle heat, try a capsule.
Before modern dentistry, cloves and clove oil were commonly used to treat toothaches and infections, because of its mild anesthetic power and strong antibacterial properties. Cloves also have high levels of antioxidants and the mineral manganese. However, it is possible to overuse it, which can lead to toxicity. Use clove oil and concentrated formulas sparingly. Add some cloves to your savory dishes for a spicy, aromatic flavor or try your hand in making drinks like chai tea and apple cider—both taste great when flavored with cloves!
Oregano contains thymol, which is a phytochemical with antioxidant properties. Used in large quantities in Mediterranean areas, oregano can also help with sore throats and coughs, and as an anti-bacterial agent. Oil of oregano is a potent extract of oregano that can be taken as a daily supplement, or you can use fresh and dried oregano in a multitude of dishes. If you make your own salad dressing at home, use some oregano for added flavor!
Ginger has long been used to treat stomach ailments. Today, it is still used for morning sickness and general nausea and indigestion. Ginger contains polyphenols, flavonoids and tannins, all which are antioxidant compounds. When heated, the effects from these are even stronger! Try grating fresh ginger into hot water and seeping for 30-40 minutes. Then flavor with honey and lemon for a spicy ginger tea that will definitely help digestion after a long meal, or if you’re feeling ill from a virus! It can also be a great help in opening nasal passages if you’re suffering from allergies or a cold.
This super-powered spice has been used in India for many centuries to treat ailments. Its active ingredient, curcumin, is a polyphenol—a molecule that works as an antioxidant—and is anti-inflammatory. It also has been shown to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties as well! Turmeric can be used to flavor foods, or you can mix the powder with almond or coconut milk to make a hot beverage similar to chai tea. Turmeric is also sold in capsule form.