Smaller quantities may pack a bigger punch

Smaller Quantities May Pack a Bigger Punch by Sheah Rarback

Don't kill the phytonutrients! These naturally occurring plant compounds such as catechins in green tea and phenols in olive oil -- which are potent antioxidants that help fight the free radicals that can damage our DNA -- are dying off in kitchens across South Florida.

With the best intentions, giant bottles of olive oil and large tins of green tea are being purchased and left out on the counter to encourage usage. A great idea in theory, since we eat what we see. But in this situation, bargain shopping does not pay off.

Two research articles in the March 2009 issue of Journal of Food Science examined the impact of storage on specific antioxidants compounds in olive oil and green tea.

The olive oil study first demonstrated that, depending on the type of olive and region, olive oils start with different amounts of health promoting phenolic/antioxidant compounds. Antioxidant activity remained the same for the first three months of storage, but by six months had lost a significant percent of power. My suggestion: buy small, tinted bottles of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil.

Tea doesn't spoil, so why not buy a big tin on sale? The researchers stored tea bags in the dark at room temperature for periods ranging from one week to six months. In storage, the average content of EGCG -- the most abundant catechin in tea -- decreased by 28 percent over six months. EGCG is reported to have the highest activity against bacterial toxins, viruses and human cancer cells.

ECG, the second most abundant catechin, decreased by 51 percent over six months.

Enjoying a relaxing cup or two of green tea each day will quickly get you through your tea tin and the last cup will be as potent as the first. But buying bigger quantities is not always better when it comes to disease fighters in food.

(Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian and on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.)

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