Vegetables are the most important sources of phenolics in the Mediterranean diet. Phenolics, especially flavonoids, are suggested as being essential bioactive compounds providing health benefits. In this study, twenty-seven vegetables, fifteen aromatic herbs and some spices consumed in Central Italy (the Marches region) were studied to reveal total phenolic, flavonoid and flavanol content as well as their antioxidant capacity measured by the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) method. A comparison in terms of antioxidant capacity was made between different salads, as well as between salads to which aromatic herbs had been added. Lemon balm and marjoram at a concentration of 1·5 % w/w increased by 150 % and 200 % respectively the antioxidant capacity of a salad portion. A 200 g portion of a salad enriched with marjoram corresponded to an intake of 200 (sd 10) mg phenolics and 4000 (sd 300) ORAC units (μmol Trolox equivalents). Olive oils and wine or apple vinegars were the salad dressings that provided the highest increase in antioxidant capacity. Among the spices tested, cumin and fresh ginger made the most significant contribution to the antioxidant capacity. The results are useful in surveying the antioxidant parameters of vegetables, herbs and spices produced and consumed in our geographical area as well as in quantifying the daily intake of phenolics and ORAC units. The results can be used in public health campaigns to stimulate the consumption of vegetables able to provide significant health protection in order to prevent chronic diseases.
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