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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All images: Shutterstock

 

Easy ways to boost your immunity at every meal

Close up of woman's hands making dough for baking

‘Tis the season to be jolly but it is also the season for colds and flu!  Unfortunately, this time of year is renowned for delivering unwanted bugs and colds.  The stress of Christmas, children bringing home bugs from school and simply the immune system being lower at this time of year, will all have an impact.

However, with a little planning, there are simple ways you can infuse some immune-boosting nutrients into every meal.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, tells you how to fill your plate with immunity at every meal!

Breakfast

There are some quick wins to be had with breakfast.  This is probably one of the easiest meals to add immune-boosting vitamin C, widely available in many fruits. Some fruits have more vitamin C and immune-boosting antioxidants than others, however.

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

Watermelon contains some of the highest levels of antioxidants and strawberries the highest amount of vitamin C. However, whilst we may see both these fruits on the supermarket shelves at this time of year, it is not their natural season.  Apples and pears are naturally available right now and it’s always best to try and eat with the seasons because nutrient levels are going to be at their highest. Interestingly, prunes (which are simply dried plums) are also high on the antioxidant chart and are often popular in the mornings (tinned is fine if you drain off most of the syrup).

Porridge with pears showing a healthy breakfast

Sliced apples or pears are delicious with overnight oats, granola, bircher muesli or good old porridge.  Think about every meal being an opportunity to gain valuable nutrients and you’ll soon get creative.  Berries are high in vitamin C and other antioxidants, partly due to their beautiful dark colours.  They are great as an added breakfast booster and also as an easy ‘on-the-run’ breakfast snack.  Even though they may have travelled some way to get to the supermarket, which will have depleted a percentage of their nutrients, they still have many wonderful health benefits to offer.

Lunch

Lunch can be rather challenging just because we’re often away from home, maybe in the office or off-site.  However, filling your body with nutrients is no less important at lunchtime and is not too difficult with just a little planning. It’s time to bring on the herbs!

A range of fresh herbs in pots to add to cooking

The herbs sage, oregano and thyme all support the immune system, but also help relieve colds, sore throats and flu symptoms. All can easily be added to lunchtime meals.

Curry dish and rice

Lunch is generally best prepared the night before which may mean eating ‘left-overs’ but these meals still deliver important nutrients.  Think about dishes such as Bolognese, soups, stews, curries, roasted chicken or fish which are just as good the next day and taste even better with some extra herbs liberally added.

Dinner

Dinner doesn’t need to be overcomplicated for it to be healthy and immune boosting.  Whatever dish you’re eating, the most important thing is to make sure you’ve included vegetables, which are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants.  Also important is beta-carotene, rich in sweet potatoes, carrots and peppers, which the body converts to vitamin A as needed – another immune-boosting vitamin.

A range of vegetables to represent fibre in the diet

Any dark-coloured vegetables such as kale, broccoli, sprouts and red cabbage will provide lots of nutrients.  However, even lighter coloured root vegetables such as swede (in season right now) can hold their head high when it comes to boosting immunity.  You can always have a bowl of vegetable soup as a starter to further increase your veggie intake.

Slow Cooker with chicken legs and vegetables

It’s also worth the investment of buying a slow cooker. You can literally throw all the ingredients in, maybe before going to work, and they will be beautifully cooked by the time you come home.  A small amount of morning chopping is worth the health benefits you’ll gain.

With a little planning, every meal can support you through the cold and flu season by boosting your immunity this winter.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition, health and wellness advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at www.feelaliveuk.com for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts