Summer Spice

May 19, 2011

image of herbs   Fresh herbs and spices are a tasty way to add interest to any meal, but did you know those garnishes also contain powerful health properties?  The fresher, the better to maintain nutrients! With all the interest in local foods, many grocers are offering fresh, locally-grown herbs, but what could be more local - and convenient -  than your own back yard or window sill!
  • Mint is a popular, refreshing summer spice. Use it to make iced mint tea, add to a fruit salad or try in a tomato and cucumber salad.  Known for it's oral health properties, mint also promotes digestion, relieves nausea, and is a good relaxant.  Mint juice can be applied on burns to heal and soothe them.  If you decide to grow your own mint, be sure it is in a confined space as it spreads easily.
  • Fennel seeds are highly cooling. They also stimulate intestinal juices, promote proper digestion and reduce acid reflux. Try chewing a teaspoon of fennel seeds before and after your next main meal. They also keep the breath fresh and promote good oral hygiene. Fennel is also known for being an appetite suppressant and is used to promote weight loss. Some studies have shown that fennel has some diuretic effect, and may help reduce water retention.
  • Cilantro is very easy to grow, in gardens or pots, and requires little care. It is a staple in home-made salsas, and counteracts spicy flavors.  Cinlantro claims a cornucopia of benefits, protection against bacterial infection from salmonella, promotes healthy cholesterol levels, protects against urinary tract infections and is a source of  iron and magnesium. Cilantro also has strong anti-oxidant properties, boosts the immune system, and protects the eyes!
  • Basil is another easy-to-grow herb, and is extremely high in antioxidants. It is the main ingredient of pesto, and a standard addition to gazpacho.  Chop fresh and add to any salad!  Basil is a relative of the mint family and is a good source of flavonoids, which help to protect cells and chromosomes from damage
  • Dill is a tall plant, and is best grown in the garden. A versatile, savory spice, it is known for its use in pickling, but is also excellent on fish, in a potato salad or on grilled veggies.  Dill is rich in calcium, which lowers the risk of bone loss, particularly after menopause. It also contains flavanoids and vitamin-B complex, which stimulate the secretion of enzymes and hormones with a calmative effect, promoting healthy sleep. Dill helps increase urination, freeing the body of toxins.
Not only are these herbs good for you, they'll add delicious variety to your summer menus!

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