Antioxidants in a Pinch: Dried Herbs and Spices

Antioxidants in a Pinch. Augapfel.Flickr

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 videos, 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 Antioxidants in a Pinch. It’s one of my all-time favorite videos (I like the ones where I’m able to offer practical advice).

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. For more, view my videos Anti-Inflammatory AntioxidantsThe Power of NO, and Bulking Up on Antioxidants.

Happy Labor Day week!
-Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: Augapfel / Flickr

  • Loraine

    Really?  I’ve been so intrigued by those so-called “tower gardens” (see e.g., in which plants are basically grown in water plus added liquid nutrients.  I never got one because I assumed the foods grown there would not be as nutritious as food receiving natural nutrients grown in regular soil.  Surely plants eating nothing but man-made plant-food couldn’t compare to plants grown in natural soils, just as humans do better on fruits and vegetables versus fast food drive-thrus.  But it sounds like I’m wrong?  Do you speculate these tower gardens are healthful options?

  • Kandie

    The article does’t seem to be available at the link given . . . would love to have a copy.

  • Hi, I really like this video, but I’m striving to get these two papers:

    Cellular antioxidant activity of common vegetables (
    Cellular antioxidant activity of common fruits (

    for whose they’re charging $$ so I can’t translate and divulgate this potentially life-saving information on my blog (

    Please Dr.Greger, help me out!
    Thanks and best regards

    • Toxins

       Here is the one on fruits

      I cant find the one on vegetables for free. Sorry!

      • Thank you Toxins! (not really… :D)
        Very useful, at least we can see the on about fruits, and we’ll wait confidently to get our hands on that on vegetables at some time…

  • Pingback: Growing evidence internal basil | INFO-BLOGGER.NET()

  • What about the importance of buying non-irradiated, organic herbs and spices?