Nature has provided us with a wealth of amazing herbs, which all have wonderful medicinal benefits, but equally add real and varied tastes to our cooking.
Adding herbs to dishes doesn’t need to be complicated and the good news is that you can’t really get it wrong!
Suzie Sawyer, Clinical Nutritionist, shares her five favourite herbs, when to use them and their health benefits.
One of my all-time favourite herbs, rosemary is not only a great source of health-giving antioxidants but delivers an amazing flavour to a range of recipes.
Rosemary naturally contains anti-inflammatory compounds, so it is great if you’re struggling with aching joints and muscles. Additionally, it exerts really positive effects on the circulation and especially circulation to the brain, providing a great boost for cognition. Furthermore, rosemary is great for supporting the immune system; it’s array of health benefits goes on and on!
Rosemary works really well with many vegetable dishes, especially roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes, and is fabulous accompaniment to roast lamb. Enjoy it all year round!
Basil always reminds me of the Mediterranean because it’s a firm favourite of the Italians but also throughout the Mediterranean countries. Basil adds so much to so many dishes. However, it’s always best added towards the end of cooking or as you’re serving a pasta dish as basil’s taste gets lost when over-cooked.
Basil seems to have positive effects on blood pressure and reducing blood fats (perhaps another reason why the typical Mediterranean diet is so healthy). It can therefore be used liberally and works well with fresh ‘on the vine’ tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. In fact, there’s not a recipe with tomatoes that basil doesn’t work with!
Also known as cilantro, this delightful herb is usually best served with spicy dishes, especially Asian and Indian curries: both the leaves and seeds are used in cooking.
However, leaves tend to be used more frequently and just like basil they are best added as the dish is being served to preserve their flavour. Coriander brings a wealth of health benefits especially for reducing blood pressure and generally protecting the heart’s wellbeing. It can also help to boost immunity and provides antioxidant protection. This in itself further aids the immune system but also helps protect the body against degenerative diseases.
Add coriander to any curry, stir-fry or spicy soup and it will never disappoint.
Chives are a member of the allium family alongside onions, leaks and garlic, hence its similar taste. And just like its family members, chive has natural antiparasitic effects, so is really helpful for stomach issues. Even better, it has a much gentler flavour than onions or garlic and is easier to digest.
As with most deep green herbs and vegetables, chives are rich in vitamin K which is essential for healthy bones and the heart, as well as having plentiful antioxidants. They are really easily chopped and added on the top of baked potatoes, potato salad or any egg dish. They are also really easily grown in a pot on the windowsill, so you need never be without them!
Parsley often gets dismissed as a cooking ingredient and is often only used to garnish dishes. However, its distinctive peppery flavour works so well in loads of salad dishes as well as recipes containing fish. And just to confuse matters, there are various types of parsley with the flat-leaf variety being the most flavoursome. However, it’s all down to personal preference.
Parsley is a brilliant detoxifier of the liver, so it is great to add fresh parsley liberally to any dish. Parsley is also a rich source of chlorophyll (also called the ‘blood of life’) because it delivers so many nutrients, as well as being a great blood cleanser.
With so much goodness in these wonderful herbs, not to mention fabulous flavours, start revving up your dishes and health today!
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