This RIRDC funded research provides the native food industry with reliable information on the levels of health beneficial constituents, and the antioxidant capacities of commercially significant native fruits, herbs and spices. This report represents the first systematic evaluation of antioxidant capacity, and the identification of its sources; the presence of potentially bioactive phytochemicals (phenolic compounds and carotenoids) and selected vitamins. The research also included an evaluation of minerals, focusing especially on those that protect human DNA against mutations that can lead to the development of a range of chronic diseases.
Native species evaluated in this study exhibited superior antioxidant capacity as compared to the Blueberry standard, renowned worldwide as the ‘health-promoting fruit.’ In comparison to commonly consumed fruits that comprise predominantly hydrophilic antioxidants, native foods contained antioxidant activity in both hydrophilic and lipophilic fractions. This suggests more comprehensive protection from oxidative stress, and possibly more pronounced health benefits.
All of the evaluated plant species were found to contain vitamin E and folate. Rich sources of lutein, a compound essential for eye health are also present, as were magnesium, zinc and calcium, all important for the synthesis and self-repair of human DNA. Additionally, sources of valuable selenium were identified.