Did you know that herbs are bursting with health benefits? Most of us cook with herbs, fresh or dried because of the flavor they add. A dish of pasta isn’t complete without the garnish of fresh basil. Mint gives a refreshing flavor to a spicy Thai dish and adding sage gives earthiness and depth to a fall roasted butternut squash. I can’t even think of how bland Thanksgiving stuffing would be without the bundle of fresh herbs, giving it all the savory flavors you’re craving.
We don’t think of them for their health benefits, but the good thing is there are plenty.
Adding herbs allows for flavor without adding extra calories. For that reason this is especially good for people trying to watch their weight. You DO NOT have to eat bland and boring food if you’re on a diet!! A handful of herbs can jazz up any dish to make it irresistibly delicious.
Most herbs have anti-inflammatory properties. Low-grade inflammation in the body is one cause of many common chronic diseases including diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, IBS and heart disease. There are many ways to reduce inflammation in the body but including more plants, including herbs has shown to have the effect of reducing inflammation.
Normally we add more more salt, sugar and fat to dishes to make them taste better or to enhance flavor, the problem is these foods add unnecessary calories and sodium. The seasoning blends found at the store are usually very high in sodium. Excess sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. The World Health Organization recommends 2,000 mg of sodium per day. Try adding salt to finish the dish and use as needed to enhance the flavor but use herbs as the primary flavor component of your dish.
Sugar and saturated fat are also linked to increased inflammation. They have added calories without beneficial nutrition. If your food is flavored with herbs you can cut back on these less healthy additions to your meal.
Basil has been used in India and Nepal for centuries for medicinal purposes in Ayurvedic medicine. It is used in many different cuisines from Italy to Asia and there are over 50 types of basil. Basil’s beneficial properties include:
Mint has been used in many countries around the world for years to sooth upset stomachs and aid digestion.
Rosemary originated in the Mediterranean and is used in cooking throughout the world. It has historically been used to preserve food while also enhancing flavor.
Thyme originates in southern Europe and is used in many Mediterranean and European cuisines.
Oregano had been used by the Romans and Greeks for centuries for medicinal purposes. It does not have strong bioavailability in the body, meaning we do not digest many of the benefits easily. However, these studies show benefits as they relate to oregano oil, which is more bioavailable, but you should always make sure you are using organic and culinary grade oil and do not take oil alone. Please consult a doctor or dietitian before adding oregano oil to your routine.
Store herbs in a glass jar filled with a little bit of water. You can keep them in the refrigerator to keep fresh a little longer. Harder herbs like rosemary and oregano will last a little longer than leafy herbs like basil and mint.
If your herbs are going to go bad, chop them up and add them to ice cube trays with a little bit of water. You can take them out as needed to add them to your recipes. You can also dry them out yourself so they last much longer, try following this tutorial and make the delicious lavender mint tea to warm you up in the coming chilly months.
For recipe inspiration to use herbs check out these recipes:
If you have questions about adding these foods or essential oils to your routine please contact me to make an appointment to talk to me one-on-one!