|Research on Your Plate|
|Herbs Make Food Happy and Healthy|
To some, adding flavor to a meal means attacking a dish with a salt shaker or drowning healthy food in heavy dressing. But it’s easy to add a whole spectrum of flavor without upping the fat by substituting herbs for unhealthy add-ons like salt, mayonnaise and butter.
An ancient Iraqi burial has been found to contain evidence of eight medicinal plants, suggesting that herbs have been harnessed by civilization as far back as 60,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Mesopotamians passed on a vast knowledge of the medicinal properties of herbs.
In the Middle Ages, serfs and townspeople used herbs to flavor their dull food. The quest for exotic herbs and spices fueled Columbus’ journey to the New World, when he tried to seek a faster, cheaper route to India in 1492. Meanwhile, Native Americans had been using wild herbs like ginseng and goldenseal all along.
Today we use herbs to freshen our homes, beautify our gardens and add flavor in our foods. Recent research suggests that you can add cancer prevention to that list. By replacing full-fat dressings and sodium with herbs and spices, you can make dishes that are pleasing to your palate and your health.
All herbs are not equal – different varieties complement different dishes. Try some of these suggestions to get started adding flavor, not fat:
- Basil – Excellent seasoning for tomatoes, eggplant and green salads, it’s also rich with eugenol and geraniol, two phytochemicals.
- Oregano – With one of the highest concentrations of phytochemicals (quercetin and carnosol), oregano has an intense, almost licorice-like taste. A staple of many Italian dishes, it’s a great complement to tomato sauces, mushrooms, beets and green beans.
- Parsley – Rich in flavanoids, parsley works well in all kinds of dishes, from fish and chicken to vegetables, soups and salads.
- Rosemary – The strong piney scent and flavor make it an excellent addition to fish, salad dressings and bread. Plus, research has shown that this herb, with over twenty antioxidants, may help prevent inflammation that is linked to cancer development and heart disease.
- Sage – This slightly smoky herb contains carnosol, linalool and ursolic acid. It can be used as a rub on poultry or as a seasoning in dressings, sauces and breads.
- Thyme – Sweeter than oregano or parsley, thyme has a minty, tea-like flavor. Full of the phytochemical, thymol, it goes well with roasted vegetables, delicate sauces and lighter dishes.
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