Five health-giving herbs to include in your diet

A range of fresh herbs in pots to add to cooking

Herbs are an integral part of nature’s treasure chest. And whilst we have all heard of them, we don’t always use them in cooking as much as we could. 

There are so many ways to include herbs in dishes from curries to pasta and salads.

To help you enjoy their amazing health benefits and flavours Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite cooking herbs and the dishes that they complement.

 

Basil

Basil.

One of the more common cooking herbs, basil is popular in typical Mediterranean dishes, especially those containing tomatoes and courgettes. From a health perspective, basil is known to help soothe the digestive system and control nausea.  It can also calm the nervous system and has been used as a general tonic.

Basil and pesto pasta in a bowl

However, basil also provides some delicious flavours too.  It is one of the key ingredients in pesto which can really cheer up a chicken and pasta dish.  However, for a great antioxidant blast then cherry tomatoes with fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, and pasta (preferably wholemeal for the energising B-vitamins) is a perfect, very cost-effective mid-week family meal.  Don’t forget some grated Parmesan to top it off!

Coriander

shutterstock_446722957 coriander Apr18

An absolute ‘essential’ in curries, sauces, and a range of Asian-inspired salads. Traditionally coriander was used to treat urinary tract infections but nowadays people use it to sooth a troubled digestion or simply because it adds so much flavour to dishes.

Curry dish and rice

Carrot and coriander soup is a well-known option, which is incredibly quick to make, also adding chopped onion, potato, and chicken stock.  One of the many great things about using fresh herbs in dishes is that you can add as much or as little as you like – there is no right or wrong. And if you’re looking for a different salad to partner your summer barbeque, then lemon and coriander couscous is brilliant and incredibly easy to make.  Simply cook the couscous and then add plenty of chopped coriander, pine nuts, lemon zest and some raisins.  Your guests will be more than impressed!

Tarragon

Bunch,Fresh,Tarragon

This delicious herb is one of the most versatile, pairing well with fish, beef, eggs, chicken or in varied soups.  Importantly, its health benefits are far-reaching.  Tarragon is a powerful antioxidant, helping to banish free radicals. It can help balance blood sugar levels so may be useful for weight control and also helps manage inflammation throughout the body which is especially beneficial for the heart.

Salmon,Roasted,In,An,Oven,With,A,Butter,,Parsley,And

For a real taste of summer, why not gently bake some salmon fillets with garlic, lime, tarragon, and ginger? This dish not only provides all the health benefits of tarragon, but garlic is great for the heart, lime is a powerful antioxidant and salmon is loaded with the omega-3 fats. These have amazing benefits throughout the body, and especially for the heart.  Tarragon certainly partners fish perfectly and this dish can be enjoyed with some Jersey Royal potatoes (in season now) and a fresh green salad.

Rosemary

Rosemary,Bound,On,A,Wooden,Board

Another herb that conjures up thoughts of the Mediterranean.  However, rosemary is a really hardy herb and is not difficult to grow here in the UK, so we don’t need to miss out on its amazing taste and health benefits. As with all herbs, rosemary is a powerful antioxidant, but it’s also used to calm the nervous system hence it is often used as an essential oil in massage treatment rooms.

Lamb,Roast

Rosemary is most popular cooked with lamb (often with garlic too) or chicken but also works perfectly with roasted potatoes.  Again, rosemary can be used as liberally as you wish.

Oregano

Oregano.fresh,And,Dry

We probably come across this herb in our daily lives mainly on top of margarita pizza!  However, oregano is great added to any dish that could do with some additional herbal flavour. 

In terms of health benefits, oregano can be taken in supplement form to ease digestive issues, especially in cases of unwanted bacterial infections or yeast overgrowths. Oregano can also help relieve cold and flu symptoms.

Spaghetti,,With,Cherry,Tomatoes,Sauce,Milanese,Bolognese,Sauce,Food

Spaghetti Bolognese, any cooked tomato-based dish, spinach and ricotta pasta, roasted chicken, or Greek salad; it’s a great addition to most dishes, so do use liberally.

 

So, why not use more herbs in your dishes and enjoy the health benefits and delicious flavours they provide.

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Herbal health: which herbs to include in your diet this summer

A range of fresh herbs in pots to add to cooking

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.

Rosemary

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,Bound,On,A,Wooden,Board

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

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.

A fresh bunch of basil on a wooden board

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!

Coriander

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.

shutterstock_446722957 coriander Apr18

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

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.

Bunch,Of,Fresh,Chives,On,A,Wooden,Cutting,Board,,Selective

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

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.

A bunch of fresh parsley

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!

Stay well.

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Five health-giving herbs for home-growing

A range of fresh herbs in pots to add to cooking

As part of nature’s offerings, there are many amazing herbs that can not only support our health, but also add some great tastes to a wide range of dishes.  Even better, you can grow them at home whether you have some pots in the garden or a sunny windowsill.

It’s also great to blend the herbs into homemade teas in order to get a more concentrated effect, as relatively small amounts are used in cooking.

This National Gardening Week Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five herbs you can grow at home.

Bay

Fresh,Bay,Leaves,In,A,Wooden,Bowl,On,A,Rustic

Bay leaves are probably one of the most common herbs grown at home in pots as they are also very decorative.  And you only need a couple of bay leaves in a stew for example, so the bay tree will still retain its beauty!

Fresh,Bouquet,Garni,With,Different,Herbs,On,An,Old,Wooden

Bay is an essential ingredient in the seasoning bouquet garni which is frequently used in soups, stews and casseroles. It is particularly delicious when used in slow-cooked dishes, so the flavours truly permeate though the ingredients. Bay is used to stimulate and aid digestion so can help reduce any potential digestive upsets from a dish that maybe slightly fatty, such as a meat stew.

Chives

Bunch,Of,Fresh,Chives,On,A,Wooden,Cutting,Board,,Selective

Chives are primarily cultivated for culinary uses and are easy to grow in small spaces as long as it’s nice and sunny and you provide them with plenty of water to keep the soil moist.  Chives also appreciate regular trimming, and they certainly provide something pretty to look at on the windowsill.

Potato,Salad,With,Eggs,And,Green,Onion,On,White,Plate

Part of the onion family, chives are great for adding to potato dishes (especially potato salad), egg dishes, salads and soups. Medicinally, chives have been found to help stimulate appetite after illness and but also aid digestion.  They can add some great flavour without causing some of the digestive upsets that onions trigger in some people.

Mint

Fresh,Mint,Leafs,In,Mortar,On,Grey,Wooden,Table

Mint is probably one of the easiest herbs to grow at home as it’s very resilient and is actually better grown in a pot on its own because it really likes to take over other plants. Additionally, it does come back year after year with some light trimming and also provides some pretty flowers.  Mint likes plenty of sunlight but also needs moisture.

Grilled,Lamb,Chops,Marinated,With,Mint,.style,Rustic.,Selective,Focus

Mint is extremely versatile in many dishes but is also really coming into its own with Pimm’s season on the horizon!  However, it’s great added to both sweet dishes (ice creams) or savoury (lamb).  Mint helps with digestion and is great for calming the stomach after food if made into an infusion (just pour boiling water over the leaves).  Mint also stimulates the immune system so may help to ward off a cold.

Rosemary

Rosemary,Bound,On,A,Wooden,Board

With its amazing aroma, you’ll always be reminded of the Mediterranean if you grow rosemary at home.  It’s great added to lamb or chicken dishes but also works well as a flavouring in roasted vegetables, especially potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Selective,Focus.,Rustic,Golden,Baked,Potato.,Sliced,Baked,Potato,With

Rosemary is an amazing antioxidant so helps protect the body from aging and degenerative diseases.  Additionally, it helps to balance and stimulate the nervous and circulatory systems.

Basil

Basil.

Another herb with a wonderful aroma, basil will also remind you of Spanish and Italian cooking, particularly in tomato dishes. It is great grown on windowsills as it doesn’t like frost but can be grown outside during the summer months.

Delicious,Caprese,Salad,With,Ripe,Tomatoes,And,Mozzarella,Cheese,With

Basil is known to be a natural tranquiliser, a tonic that can help calm the nervous system, as well as aiding digestion.  Interestingly, whilst basil really adds flavour to many Italian styled dishes, if used with raw tomatoes and mozzarella cheese (a traditional caprese salad), with a little olive oil drizzled, all the fat-soluble nutrients in tomatoes become much more absorbable for the body.  Therefore, it’s a win-win situation when adding basil.

So, why not start your own herb garden and you’ll have delicious flavours and ready-made health benefits on tap too!

Stay well.

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Growing your own: health-giving, home-grown ideas

Close up on waomn in an allotment holding a home graon carrot

Whilst we’re all rather restricted in what we can and can’t do right now. But for those with vegetable patches, pots or allotments, it’s the perfect time to be growing your vegetables.  For those of you without access to outside space, a balcony or even just a windowsill can give you the opportunity to grow some delicious and health-giving herbs.

Growing your own produce has big advantages over shop-bought as the produce is all pesticide-free and additive-free.  Importantly, time from harvest to plate can be swift, helping to keep valuable nutrients intact, and helping the planet at the same time.

This National Gardening Week, Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer suggests a few things to start cultivating right now!

Broccoli

An all-round superfood, broccoli certainly lives up to its acclaim. It is very high in antioxidants provided by its vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content. Plus, it’s great for the heart (it helps reduce cholesterol) and helps to protect the immune system. It can help to keep the digestive system moving smoothly and supports the liver’s ability to detoxify. Broccoli is also packed with lutein and zeaxanthin which are great for healthy eyes and eyesight.

Purple sprouting broccoli

In terms of nutrient content, broccoli is rich in immune-boosting vitamin C, bone-loving vitamin K and energy-boosting folate. There are so many different varieties of broccoli that you can sow right now; the purple sprouting type may have the slight edge in terms of antioxidants, which is down to its beautiful colour.

Carrots

A real mainstay vegetable, no garden should be without carrots. They are best known for their ability to help you see in the dark. This is because they are loaded with beta-carotene, which is turned into vitamin A in the body, and which is essential for eyesight.

A selection of rainbow carrots

Why not grow a rainbow variety, which means you’ll have a combination of orange, purple and white-coloured carrots?  They will all have slightly different tastes and the varied colours will deliver wonderful healthy phytonutrients.

Beetroot

If you plant some beetroot seeds now, you should have some wonderful beetroot globes available for the traditional summer salad season. However, beetroot is not only great in salads but is delicious roasted, pickled or cooked, and used in juices and smoothies.

Whole beetroots

Another superfood, beetroot is a great liver cleanser. Packed full of antioxidants, it also supports energy and is a good source of iron.  Indeed, this is probably one of the reasons it has traditionally been known as a tonic and given to people whilst convalescing. Needless to say, it’s loaded with great nutrients and is incredibly versatile in many dishes, both sweet and savoury.

Basil

Basil is one of the tastiest herbs you can grow indoors. Plus, it smells beautiful and will always remind you of the Mediterranean.  Basil makes a great accompaniment to any tomato-based dish and is an aromatic addition to salad and pasta dishes. It also great for the digestive system.

A fresh bunch of basil on a wooden board

Basil is a pretty hardy herb that prefers full sunlight and now is the time to plant your pots for readiness by July. It will also happily grow in a pot amongst other herbs if you have room.

Chives

Chives are another great small pot herb which can be grown alone or in a slightly larger pot with other herbs such as coriander and parsley.

Some chopped chives on a wooden board

A member of the onion family, chives are very easy to grow and produce some pretty and edible flowers. Both the stems and flowers are great chopped for garnishing potato salad, in scrambled egg, soups and many other savoury dishes. As with all herbs, they have been hailed for many different health issues over the years, and chives have been used as a tonic and to stimulate appetite after illness.

So, get planting!  And if you’ve never undertaken any form of gardening in the past, now could be a great time to start.

Stay well.

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Natural ways to a stress-free Christmas

A woman relaxing at christmas with her eyes shut in front of a christmas tree

The lead-up to Christmas is traditionally a very stressful time of year.  There’s always so much to do and often many people to please. 

What you eat and how you plan your time can really help support your health and minimise stress, so you can fully enjoy the festive season.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her three top tips for a stress-free Christmas.

Load up on magnesium

Nature has supplied us with everything we need in terms of nutrients.  The good news is that the mineral, magnesium, is especially calming.  Whilst magnesium is important for energy production, it’s also needed for over 300 different enzyme reactions in the body.  This includes playing a role in the production of the brain’s neurotransmitters, especially calming GABA which decreases activity in your nervous system. Magnesium also helps manage the body’s normal stress response as well as aiding muscle relaxation.  No wonder it’s known as ‘nature’s natural tranquiliser’!

A range of foods containing magnesium

Foods high in magnesium are going to become your best friends over the next few weeks.  Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale, wholegrains such as oats, almonds, dairy foods, beans, and meat should all be on the menu.  It may also be worth taking a magnesium supplement.  If you take it about an hour before bedtime, it can help you to sleep peacefully too.

Try some calming herbs

Just as nature has delivered us calming nutrients, it’s also delivered calming herbs. And there are many ways you can use them in meal preparation.

Clearly, time is a precious commodity right now, so spending hours in the kitchen is not on the menu.  However, basil is a tonic for the nervous system: it’s calming and can also help digestion.  Why not use it in an easy chicken pasta dish, using whole wheat pasta (which contains more magnesium and B-vitamins) or with mozzarella cheese and buffalo tomatoes drizzled with a little olive oil?  Two easy supper suggestions.

Mozzarella, tomato and basil salad

Camomile is a popular calming tea which is especially good before bedtime, as is mint tea which is soothing for the digestive system.  Additionally, rosemary adds a wonderful taste and aroma to many different dishes. Think roast potatoes and sweet potatoes, lamb, chicken, soups, or simply rubbed over chunky bread with a little olive oil.

A bunch of fresh rosemary and dried rosemary in a pot

Some herbs can act as both an energy stimulant as well as encouraging calm and relaxation.  They are known as adaptogenic herbs; ashwagandha, rhodiola and ginseng will all have this effect.  They are best taken in the morning in supplement form to help with energy levels, but because they manage the stress response, they body will also feel calm and better able to sleep.

Make time for relaxation

Unfortunately, we often push ourselves very hard at this time of year.  This can suppress immune function making us susceptible to all the nasty colds and bugs flying around, not to mention leaving us feeling low and tired.

The good news is there are many relaxation apps you can download and listening to them won’t eat too much time out of your day.  Meditation can take a little practice, but an app can really help guide you along the way.

Close up of a woman in lotus position meditating

The benefits of relaxation are far-reaching not just at this time of year but for long term health and longevity.  Try and allocate around 20 minutes a day. Just listening to a relaxation app and being still for a short time will refresh your body and mind.

It’s important to give back to the body what it needs.  While it’s working hard and functioning day to day, it’s easy to forget that the stress response uses up more nutrients (especially magnesium and the B-vitamins, which are essential for energy). Therefore, it should be properly fuelled with nutrients and lifestyle changes, so it continues to work as it’s best for you.

So, just a few small changes can make a massive difference to how well you cope over the next few weeks and can hopefully help you have a happier Christmas.

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Five healthy herbs for your home garden

A range of fresh herbs in pots to add to cooking

Culinary herbs make a wonderful addition to many dishes. We often enjoyed their amazing tastes but we don’t always realise just how many health benefits they bestow. Even better, many of them are really simple to grow in your home herb garden or on a bright windowsill.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite herbs to grow at home and explains their numerous health benefits.

 

 

Mint

Whilst many herbs have a lovely natural aroma, mint is one of most popular scents and it certainly evokes thoughts of summer; think mint as an essential part of summertime Pimms for example!

However, mint delivers some wonderful health benefits and has a long history of traditional medicinal use. It’s very useful for aiding digestive upsets, particularly flatulence and bloating; it seems to control muscle spasms so relaxes the intestines.

Mint tea

If you’re wanting to gain maximum health benefits from mint, then it’s probably best taken in a tea. However, it works really well in either sweet or savoury dishes, particularly accompanying Jersey royal potatoes which are in season right now. It also works brilliantly with roasted aubergine, garlic, plain yoghurt and a little ground pepper.

Parsley

Parsley is king of green herbs and is often used in green juices and smoothies, for very good reason. It is a great liver tonic and is very cleansing for the body overall. It also helps to calm any troublesome and persistent skin conditions.

A bunch of fresh parsley

Parsley’s ‘claim-to-fame’ is largely down to two of its key components. It contains volatile oils which contribute towards its liver health benefits and also contains antioxidants which help protect the body from many degenerative diseases. Parsley is also a rich source of energising folate and vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant.

Parsley has a wealth of culinary uses in salads, soups, sauces and pesto. It’s particularly lovely very simply used with grilled fish and a little butter.

Rosemary

Rosemary is a perennial favourite herb available all year round and is very easy to grow in a small pot. It will also deliver a wonderful aromatic smell on your patio!

From a health perspective, rosemary is a powerful antioxidant so is great to eat during the summer months to help protect the skin from sun damage. Rosemary also helps support both the immune and digestive systems.

A bunch of fresh rosemary and dried rosemary in a pot

Even better, there are so many wonderful ways that its amazing pine-like aroma and distinctive pungent flavour can be added to dishes. It’s a favourite in lamb or chicken dishes or can be added fresh to egg frittatas. Rosemary can also be crushed and added to olive oil, perhaps with some fresh garlic, and used as a dipping sauce for bread.

Basil

Basil is a great go-to herb and will always sit well in any kitchen herb garden. It’s another herb that contains an array of powerful volatile oils which have the potential to protect DNA from oxidation. This process is one of the main causes of body ageing.

These volatile oils also help protect the digestive tract from unwanted bacteria. If you’re planning on travelling abroad or further afield this summer, then it makes sense to try and include basil as much as possible in your dishes. Basil leaves are also a tasty addition to salads.

Basil and pesto pasta in a bowl

Basil is probably best known as being the main ingredient in pesto alongside pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Plus basil is perfect with mozzarella and tomatoes, as well as when added to soups, salmon or pasta dishes.

Chillies

They are slightly more sensitive to grow at home, but if you’ve got a warm, sunny windowsill, then it’s certainly worth persevering and growing some chillies. Best known for the ‘heat’ they add to dishes, chillies contain capsaicin which delivers their delicious pungent flavour; the hotter the flavour, the more capsaicin they have.

There’s often a question mark around hot spices and whether they are any good for the digestive system. To the contrary, chilli may actually help protect the gut from stomach ulcers. However, chillies may have an adverse effect on the beneficial gut bacteria. If you’re eating them regularly, then make sure you’re also eating natural yoghurt or other fermented foods which help feed the good gut bacteria. Even better, chillies and yoghurt can be combined into a delicious dip.

Red and green chillies

Chillies are also known to help with weight loss; they are thermogenic which means they produce calorie-burning heat. They can be added to so many different dishes – think curries, stews and stir-fries. Just remember to wash your hands after chopping and handling them! There’s a wide variety of chillies to grow depending on your requirement for mild to very hot – always do your research and find the chillies which will suit your palette the best.

So enjoy creating your herb garden and bring healthy and delicious herbal additions to your daily dishes.

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