Cloves, "the best natural antioxidant"Spice may help make processed foods healthier
For most of us in the UK the smell of cloves is linked to mulled wine, rice puddings and other winter treats. But new research claims that the spice has excellent health benefits which could be used by the food industry as a natural additive to improve the nutritional value of pre-processed foods.
Scientists from Miguel Hernández University in Spain studied the antioxidant properties of 5 key ingredients of the so-called Mediterranean diet - oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage and cloves. Essential oils were extracted from these and subject to a range of tests.
All of the ingredients performed well for antioxidant properties, but cloves were the best.
"Out of the five antioxidant properties tested, cloves had the highest capacity to give off hydrogen, reduced lipid peroxidation well, and was the best iron reducer", said Juana Fernández-López, one of the authors of the study and a researcher at the UMH.
The motivation for the study was to see if naturally obtained antioxidant extracts could be used in the processed foods industry (especially in meat products) to replace artificially created additives.
This is because the effects of oxidation reduce the useful lifespan of such products, as Ms Fernández-López points out: "Lipid oxidation is one of the main reasons for foods deteriorating, and causes a significant reduction in their nutritional value, as well as loss of taste."
At present these negative effects are counteracted by the introduction of synthetic antioxidants. However, questions have been raised about the possible side-effects of these additives.
The research, published in the Flavour and Fragrance Journal, holds out the possibility of replacing these additives with naturally sourced extracts.
Anti-oxidants are considered to be of benefit as they are thought to counteract the supposed damaging effects of "free radicals" in the body. It should be noted that there is still no conclusive proof that this is the case and that some studies suggest that over-consumption of antioxidants may in fact be harmful.
This article was published on Wed 17 March 2010
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