In recent years, antioxidants have become all the rage in the marketing world. But beyond all the hype, why should you care about antioxidants, and why is it a good idea to get more of them in your diet?

In a nutshell, antioxidants reverse oxidation within your cells. Excessive oxidation may be a result of chronic exposure to environmental toxins or a poor diet, creating unstable molecules known as free radicals. These free radicals, when present at high levels, can damage your cells, raise your risk for illness and disease and contribute to the aging process. Antioxidants help to neutralize and limit damage caused by those free radicals.

That said, the jury is out on whether or not it’s wise to take large quantities of antioxidants in supplement form. That’s why it’s almost always a good idea to try to get your vitamins and minerals from food first.

In this recipe, we’re blending several herbs with high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) unit values, which measure the antioxidant activity of a food. The result is a tasty and convenient blend that you can sprinkle onto foods to easily boost your antioxidant intake. Less scientific (but easier to spot at a distance) the presence of antioxidants in food are often signaled by bright color – in this case the bulk of our antioxidant sprinkle consists of hawthorn berries, hibiscus calyces and rose hips – all of which are lovely shades of red.

Crataegus spp.

The berries of the hawthorn are a veritable powerhouse of vitamins and nutrients. In addition to being a rich source of antioxidant polyphenols and the flavonoid rutin – an antioxidant that improves blood flow by helping to dilate blood vessels – hawthorn berries also contain B vitamins such as folic acid (an antioxidant that’s important for metabolism), vitamin C (immunity and cardiovascular health) calcium and iron.

Hibiscus sabdariffa

The calyces of the hibiscus are actually the sepals of the flower. Hibiscus is antioxidant-rich thanks to its anthocyanin content, which is also responsible for its deep-red color. Did you know that hibiscus contains more antioxidants than red wine, grape juice or even green tea?

Rosa spp.

The small, berry-like fruits of the rose that develop after the flowers drop off are called rose hips or rose haws. Hips have a pleasing tart flavor, and are famous for their impressive vitamin C content in a very compact package. They’re also rich in polyphenols, carotenoids and vitamins E – all of which have powerful antioxidant actions. Rose hips are also a good source of calcium, vitamin A, folate, potassium and magnesium.

Citrus x sinensisl & Syzygium aromaticum

The blend is finished off with powdered orange peel and clove. The antioxidant activity of citrus peels are attributed to the glycosides hesperidin and naringin, while cloves contain a compound called eugenol, that has been found to stop oxidative damage more effectively than vitamin E.

Try keeping this powdered herbal blend near your stove or food prep area in a handy shaker jar, and experiment with adding it to different foods. Did I mention it’s tasty? I think you’ll find it to be a valuable and versatile kitchen staple, great for enhancing soups and stews, as well as smoothies, yogurt, juices, summer salads, rice dishes and more! ??