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Spices: Antioxidants in a Pinch

In the Washington, DC area we are blessed with more than a dozen farmers’ markets. One local farm I frequent has a hydroponic greenhouse, so I can get fresh basil all year long. I’ve always been curious, though, how hydroponic basil—grown in water—compared nutritionally to basil grown in soil. Finally, a study was published comparing the two, which I feature in my 1-min. video Is Hydroponic Basil as Healthy?

The hydroponic basil won hands down! It had more antioxidant power and more key vitamins and phytonutrients. Why? Because the basil doesn’t like being grown in water. It’s the same reason many organic greens are healthier. Organic plants get bitten by bugs and, in defense, cruciferous greens such as kale and collards manufacture more of those wonderful glucosinolate compounds I featured in my Care2 Healthy Living posts, Breast Cancer Stem Cells vs. Broccoli and The Best Detox. Likewise, under the environmental stress of drowning hydroponically, basil releases more phenolic antioxidant phytonutrients like rosmarinic acid to protect itself, and we can reap the benefits. For more on these compounds, see my 2-min. video Phytochemicals: The Nutrition Facts Missing From the Label.

If you’re not lucky enough to live near a farm stand and too busy to grow your own, dried herbs and spices are surprisingly healthful. In fact, in a comparison of the Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods, ounce for ounce dried herbs and spices average the greatest antioxidant punch of all! Now even though herbs and spices may have 10 times the antioxidant power of nuts and seeds for example, it’s easy to eat a few ounces of nuts in one sitting, but not so easy to eat a few ounces of nutmeg. However, some herbs and spices are so off-the-charts amazing that just a small pinch can go a long way. Check out my video pick of the day shown above.

Isn’t it enough to just eat a variety of fruits and vegetables? Should we really go out of our way to shift towards choosing the most antioxidant-packed? There is growing evidence that choosing foods particularly rich in antioxidants offers health benefits above and beyond quantity. See my videos Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants, The Power of NO, and Bulking Up on Antioxidants.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: Augapfel / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


+ add your own
1:02PM PDT on Aug 17, 2015

Thank you Dr.

11:05AM PDT on Jun 20, 2015

Thank you Dr.

6:53AM PDT on Oct 4, 2014


6:42AM PDT on Oct 4, 2014


5:29AM PST on Feb 7, 2014

thank you

4:26PM PDT on May 7, 2013


1:55AM PDT on Apr 20, 2013

Thanks for sharing

2:50AM PDT on Apr 10, 2013


5:38PM PDT on Apr 4, 2013

Thank you for sharing..

5:38PM PDT on Apr 4, 2013

Thank you for sharing..

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