August 19, 2013

The Health Benefits of Fresh Herbs. ~ Alicia Lawrence

Many people head to farmers’ markets and stores like Whole Foods for the main dish items, but what about herbs?

Using fresh herbs makes meals tastier and adds nutrients to a dish. It’s like adding on a side of supplements to a meal, and most supplements (including herbs) are more easily digestible when taken with food. Different herbs have different benefits, so choose ones that fulfill what you’re looking for.

First, consider the fresh versus packaged debate. When an herb is packaged, it might lose some nutritional value, not to mention taste. Who knows how long those herbs have been sitting in their plastic containers on grocery shelves? The potency of some herbs fade once the herb has been cut, so you might only be getting a portion of the good stuff. Plus, fresh herbs are often much more affordable than packaged ones, especially when the herb grows locally. If you can manage, consider buying a few large pots of already planted herbs for your balcony.


Rosemary and Parsley

A recent study revealed that rosemary is directly linked to better memory and cognitive skills. Rosemary is a bush that grows easily almost anywhere. It’s affordable, it’s easy to take care of, and it tastes great with every type of meat or substitute like tofu and tempeh. There’s no way a person can “overdose” on rosemary. This study showed that a person’s cognitive skills increased in accordance with the amount of rosemary they ate.

Don’t dismiss parsley as a tasteless way to decorate a plate, even though that’s what it’s known for. Parsley is rich in apigenin, and a recent cancer prevention study revealed that rats with breast cancer had decreased tumors when given apigenin. This compound stops new blood vessels from forming, which effectively blocks the spread of cancer. The taste is so mild it can be chopped and added to any dish to provide an instant cancer blocker.


Thyme for a Change

Exceptionally rich in antioxidants, thyme can be sprinkled on anything about to be grilled to help with the immune system. It can help the body fight disease radicals, working just like berries and acai powder. However, not everyone can squeeze in the right amount of berries each day, so thyme is a great addition that only takes a few second to add. Whether being baked, grilled or placed in a soup, any meat or veggie can benefit from a sprinkle.

The only other comparable herb available is sage, which has slightly higher levels of antioxidants and offers the same benefits. Use both, or choose the one that tastes better to you. There are so many options available it doesn’t make much sense to force something that isn’t tasty. Whether you’re more thyme or sage, one of these delectable herbs will surely help you stay healthy.


Cilantro and Anise

Cilantro is chock full of Vitamin K, which helps with bone strength and with clotting. Vitamin K is something most people struggle to get in adequate amounts on a daily basis. Another perk is, for those with genetically dark circles under their eyes, Vitamin K can help with that and improve your appearance after just 30 days of eating it. Cilantro is already a favorite ingredient in Mexican dishes, but it’s so versatile it can be added to nearly any dish.

Anise, the beloved star herb popular in mulled wine, is sweet and tastes a little like licorice. It’s used to help with upset stomachs, stop cold symptoms like runny noses, and can even help with milk flow in women who are breastfeeding. It’s a natural libido booster and also helps ease cramping that can happen with PMS. It comes with “estrogen-like properties,” without the harsh side effects of actual estrogen medications, so the benefits for a woman taking this herb are nearly limitless.

These benefits reflect the advantages of growing your own herb garden. Overall, the only thing you might need to worry about is how to repel rabbits from eating them first. No matter which herb you decide to incorporate into your life, rest assured that there are natural solutions to common ailments.


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Assistant Ed: Renee Picard / Ed: Catherine Monkman

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Alicia Lawrence