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Culinary herbs: tasteful and powerful

Cooking+Nutrition

Culinary herbs: tasteful and powerful

Humans have been cooking with herbs for thousands of years. They add flavour and aroma to our dishes, not to mention their phytonutrients and healthy properties such as being antimicrobial and supporting a healthy digestion. Although we have lost some knowledge on how to incorporate them due to the introduction of additives, artificial flavours and colours from processed foods, it is never too late to rediscover them.

Culinary herbs

You can choose between fresh and dried. If you prefer fresh, you can plant some of them, such as basil, oregano or mint in vases in your kitchen for use all year long. If you think it is too much work, buy them dried, preferably organic, to make sure they have not been irradiated. Just remember that dried herbs are more concentrated and if you would like to replace them by fresh ones, the proportion should be half a teaspoon of dried herb to one teaspoon of fresh.

Now let's take a closer look on the most common herbs you find at the grocery store:

Bay

In Brazil, it adds flavour to beans; in the Mediterranean region, it is used in stews, soups and braised meats. Make sure to remove the leaf before serving the dish. Good source of several minerals, especially iron and manganese, vitamin C and B vitamins, bay has diuretic, antioxidant, and antiseptic properties.

Basil

A superstar of the Italian cuisine, it can be used in soups, salads and chicken. You can also prepare your own pesto sauce with garlic, walnuts, sea salt and olive oil. Basil is helpful to stabilize blood sugar, besides having antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Cilantro

Refers just to the leaves of the plant. Very common in Mexican and Indian recipes. Goes nicely with white fish in general. It aids digestion and heartburn. It can bind with heavy metals facilitating its removal from the body.

Coriander

This is the seed of the cilantro plant and is one of the main condiments from Indian famous garam masala and curry. Make sure to dry fry the seeds prior to use: when the aroma is released, it is ready. Recommended in stews and marinades. Found also in a Russian dark rye bread called Borodinsky bread. It is antispasmodic.

Dill

It can act as a diuretic and help flush out toxins, besides calming down digestion. It can be used in pickling and on fish and potatoes.

Fennel seeds

Its flavour resembles that of liquorice. It can be used in salads and meat dishes. Make a tea or just chew them to ease digestion. It is rich in antioxidants, iron and manganese.

Marjoram

A relative of oregano with a milder taste, it is common in sauces, soups and meat dishes originated from the Mediterranean region. It calms the stomach and increases appetite; it may relieve cramps, diarrhea and constipation.

Oregano

Another superstar in the Mediterranean cuisine, it goes well in sauces and for marinating meat – and pizza, of course! It is known for its capacity of inhibiting bad bacteria, fungus and yeast without harming the good bugs. It is also antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. 

Parsley

Originated in the Mediterranean, it is rich in vitamin C (antioxidant) and vitamin K1 and a good source of iron. It is one of the most popular and versatile herbs, being used in salads, dressings, stews, green juices. It is anti-inflammatory.

Peppermint

As a decongestant, it can relieve cold symptoms. It is the best herb for gas and bloating and is also good for tooth and oral health. Especially good in salads such as tabbouleh due to its refreshing taste. Can be used also in meat dishes such as the Lebanese kibbe. Enjoy as a tea after meals to speed up digestion and increase bile flow.

Rosemary

What a delicious smell that of a savoury pie seasoned with it! A powerful antioxidant, it protects olive oil from going rancid when cooking with it and prevents the formation of compounds when barbecuing that are considered carcinogenic, so use it generously with grilled chicken or beef. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well. 

Sage

Quite popular in Northern Italian cuisine, where it is mixed with butter and stirred over pasta. Recommended for use with meats in general, It can be helpful with mild gastrointestinal issues as well as throat infections and oral health. Relieves nausea caused by excess bile. 

Tarragon

It has an anise-like flavour and is good in salads (raw) or cooked in tomato and chicken dishes. It is an antioxidant, has calming properties, stimulates appetite and bile productions; supports female reproductive health.

Thyme

Common in the Italian and French cuisines. Good with mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic and onions. Also recommended for roasted meats, stews and pasta sauces made out of peppers or eggplants. It helps to prevent excess of mucus and bile. It is antioxidant and antispasmodic.



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