The New Year is a time when people make the resolution to eat healthier, and adding herbs to your diet will help you accomplish that goal. Researchers are continuing to find that herbs provide a multitude of health benefits and the flavor they add to foods can help you cutback on using too much salt.
Both freshly-picked and dried herbs have health benefits and during the cool weather months, thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage and parsley thrive in gardens. These herbs also can grow in containers outdoors or inside on a sunny warm window sill.
Since dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of a dry herb, replace it with 1 tablespoon of the fresh version (three times the amount of a fresh to dry and 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons). When adding fresh herbs to your recipes, it is best to incorporate them into the final cooking phase, but dry herbs should be added early on in the cooking process.
While using herbs in cooking only provides a small portion of what many supplements tout as being beneficial, regularly using herbs in your food allows your body to derive benefits from them over time.
Thyme: The essential oils of thyme have been used to prevent food contamination due to its strong antibacterial properties. Thyme is also good for your brain, skin and cartilage growth. Adding thyme to chicken soup is said to help with sore throats, so remember to throw in a few springs of this beneficial herb in chicken soup to help you through the flu season.
Oregano: Said to be one of the most "healthy" herbs, 1 tablespoon of oregano has more cancer fighting antioxidants than an apple and 2 times more than a serving of blueberries. Both fresh and dry versions of this herb provide vitamins and minerals, as well health benefits that include; detoxifying the body, boosting the immune system and improving bone health. Sprinkling oregano on meat before you place it on the barbeque will help reduce carcinogenic compounds that are created when meats are grilled.
Rosemary: Shakespeare wrote, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance…" I wonder if Shakespeare knew that rosemary is actually good for your memory? This pine scented herb is also full of anti-inflammatory properties and it can aid in detoxifying the body. Rubbing chopped rosemary leaves on meats before grilling has the same benefits as using oregano… Why not use both? I make a wet rub with fresh thyme, rosemary and oregano, a little garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil and use it as a marinade for grilled meats, poultry and fish. Sprinkle on more of the chopped fresh herbs on the meat before you grill it and enjoy the wonderful scent as it cooks.
Sage: The "sister herb" to rosemary, the healing properties of sage has been used by cultures around the world for centuries. This beneficial herb is good for the brain, reduces inflammation, strengthens the immune system, improves bone health and aids in digestion. Besides the common sage we associate with Thanksgiving, try growing pineapple sage, which has both the scent and flavor of pineapple. The pineapple sage plant also has sprays of small red flowers. Use it in chicken and fish marinades, or in a pineapple salsa.
Parsley: Filled with antioxidants, parsley works as a natural diuretic and has an overall cleansing effect on the body. It is good for the kidneys, liver and urinary tract. Add freshly chopped parsley to salads and sauces to give them a fresh touch. When the weather cools and basil is finished growing in the garden, make parsley pesto by replacing the basil in your pesto recipe with a bunch of flat-leaf parsley. Add a touch of lemon juice and zest and you will have a cleansing, fresh tasting sauce to toss with pasta, or spoon over seafood, chicken, or lamb.