Besides boosting the flavours, smells, looks and textures in your meals, the moreherbs you try, the wider the variety of potential health benefits you are likely to receive.
Based on validated scientific studies, it appears that the regular consumption of aromatic herbs and spices brings many benefits to our Health. Aromatic herbs and spices :
- increase the nutritional quality of our food by protecting it from oxidation and the formation of carcinogenic compounds
- help develop healthy eating habits: less salt, sugars, fats and more vegetables
- take part, thanks to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and insulin-potentiating properties, in the prevention of :
- cardiovascular disease,
- of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes,
- inflammatory diseases
- and recently demonstrated, intestinal dysbiosis.
Health benefits of herbs
Consuming herbs may help to prevent and manage heart disease, cancer and diabetes. It may also help to reduce blood clots and provide anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour properties. Research is ongoing but studies have shown that:
- Garlic, linseed, fenugreek and lemongrass may help lower cholesterol.
- Garlic is useful for people with mildly elevated blood pressure.
- Fenugreek can help control blood sugar and insulin activity (as can linseed, flaxseed and cinnamon).
- Garlic, onions, chives, leeks, mint, basil, oregano, sage and many other herbs can help protect against cancer.
- Herbs are rich in antioxidants, especially cloves, cinnamon, sage, oregano and thyme, by helping to reduce low-density lipoproteins (‘bad’ cholesterol).
Fresh herbs often contain higher antioxidant levels compared to processed or dried herbs. If you are using herbs in order to harness their health-promoting aspects first and foremost, aim to add your fresh herbs at the end of cooking or as you serve to preserve these properties.
Tips for cooking with herbs
Suggestions for cooking with herbs include:
- Dried herbs are more strongly flavoured than fresh. As a general rule, one teaspoon of dried herbs equals 4 teaspoons of fresh.
- If you regularly use herbs, you might like to create a ‘bouquet garni’ by tying chopped and mixed herbs in little muslin bags - these can be added to your cooking for flavour but removed before serving.
- Some herbs are hardier than others (like rosemary and parsley) and will retain their flavour during the cooking process - these can be added at the start of your cooking.
- Some herbs are used only to flavour a dish but are not eaten - bay leaves for example.
- The flavour of herbs fades with time, so discard dried herbs after 12 months.
- Dried whole herbs, where the leaves are still attached to their stalk, tend to have a stronger flavour than loose leaves sold in packets or jars.
The regular use of culinary herbs and spices goes far beyond the simple search for taste pleasure, because introducing them into our eating habits, allows us to acquire healthy eating habits and participates in the nutritional prevention of non-communicable diseases with a nutritional component.