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Wake Up Springtime Meals with Herbs
With fresh flavor and fragrance, green herbs can help you turn over a healthy new leaf this spring. Like all plant foods, they contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals that give them their unique qualities.
Herbs can add flavor without adding salt. That’s in line with AICR’s advice to limit the amount of salty and salt-cured foods you eat. Herbs and spices may also fight inflammation, which is related to cancer development. Researchers are finding antioxidants in herbs that may protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer.
But more studies are needed before isolated herbs and spices may be used safely to prevent or treat cancer and other diseases. In fact, since herbal and other supplements may interfere with medications, it’s best to stick with foods and ask your doctor before taking herbal extracts or supplements for a medical condition.
Until more is known, AICR encourages enjoying a wide variety of herbs as part of a mostly plant-based diet filled with many different kinds of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans to get the most protection from cancer. (Check out the recipes from AICR’s Test Kitchen.)
Dried herbs are usually stronger tasting (although they lose flavor over time). Store dried herbs in a cool, dark place, especially if their container is clear; they will last about a year.
Fresh herbs need to be washed. You may need to use three or four times as much fresh herbs as dried. Wrap fresh herbs in a damp paper towel, place them in a plastic bag and refrigerate; or put them stems down in a container of water, with a plastic bag over the leafy part, in the refrigerator. They will keep for about two weeks.
Experiment with herbs you’ve never tried. Sniff an herb before you add it to a dish: If it smells appealing, add just a little at first because the flavor may become stronger when cooked or chewed. Here are 12 top herbs and a few of the many phytochemicals each contains:
Blends well with these herbs:
|Basil||quercetin, camphor, methyl eugenol, kaempferol||oregano, parsley, thyme|
|Bay Leaves||eugenol, geraniol, limonene, perillyl alcohol||oregano, basil, curry, cumin, turmeric|
|Chives||allium compounds, kaempferol, saponins||dill, marjoram, paprika, savory, thyme|
|Cilantro (a.k.a. coriander)||apegenin, beta-carotene, kaemferol, quercetin, rutin||chili powder, cumin, garlic, onion, oregano|
|Dill||isorhamnetin, kaempferol, limonene, myrcetin||celery seed, cumin, thyme|
|Oregano||luteolin, myrcetin||basil, cumin, chili powder, parsley|
|Parsley||apegenin, coumarin, ferulic acid, lutein, luteolin, pthalides, quercetin||almost any other herb or spice|
|Rosemary||carnosol, fenchon, rosmanol, ursolic acid||cumin, parsley, thyme|
|Sage||carnosol, limonene, perillyl alcohol, vanillic acid||celery seed, marjoram, savory, thyme|
|Thyme||phenolics ( such as: rosmarinic acid and flavonoids)||basil, chives, dill, paprika, sage|
One classic French herb mix is “fines herbs:” parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil used with omelets, dressings or meats. Chervil is a less common herb, like borage, marjoram and savory. If you buy a prepared blend, watch out for high salt content by reading the label before buying.
You can read more about herbs and growing them at: