Rosemary is a perennial plant native to the Mediterranean region. Rosemary extract is commonly used in cooking, food preservation, cosmetics, or herbal remedies for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial applications, as well as for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. At least 30 components have been identified in the essential oil, which have been shown to have olfactory properties that affect cognitive abilities, including memory. Rosemary extract contains many bioactive compounds including phenolic diterpenes, flavones, and caffeic acid derivatives. The highest accumulation of these compounds occurs in the leaves and is related to the young developmental stage of the plant.
Can rosemary extract replace chemical preservatives?
Rosemary is a fragrant woody herb commonly used to season dishes such as roast chicken or potatoes. However, its potential goes beyond being a flavor enhancer. Rosemary extract has become popular in some food producers for its ability to act as a natural preservative.
It's no surprise that many packaged breakfast foods are full of preservatives. They can sit on grocery store shelves for weeks if not months. That's why it's not uncommon to see them contain preservatives such as citric acid, sodium potassium tartrate, sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, and sulfur dioxide. Ultimately, these chemicals prevent packaged foods from developing bacteria, spoiling, and changing color. While it is best for companies to keep food fresh for as long as possible, it has been shown that many of these preservatives, if consumed excessively or over a prolonged period of time, can be harmful to the body. However, some natural products actually have the same effect as preservatives, one of which is rosemary extract.
The antioxidant properties of rosemary extract come from the biologically active compounds called polyphenols found in the plant. Rosemary contains rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, both of which help to slow down the oxidation of fats and slow down the efficacy of any microorganisms that cause food spoilage. These polyphenols were studied by the European Food Safety Authority in 2008, and the European Union later approved the use of rosemary extract to preserve food in various forms. It is still an approved food additive in the eyes of the FDA as well.
As rosemary extract is effective in preventing oil rancidity, it is commonly used in high-fat items such as sausages or salamis, or condiments such as salad dressings. It is also present in packaged granola bars, which contain high-fat nuts and oils and can last for several months.
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