Nutrition and how to add to your plate

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You may think of herbs as a garnish or an afterthought, but it’s time to respect rosemary, basil, parsley and cilantro and give them pride of place on your plate.

“Fresh or dried herbs are nutrient-dense leaves,” says Roxana EhsaniRD, CSSD, a Miami-based certified sports dietitian and national media spokesperson for the Nutrition and Dietetics Academy. “They’re packed with flavor and when added to dishes can bring out new elements when paired with other foods.”

Both fresh and dried varieties are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, adds Ehsani. This means there’s no need to dry them, especially since they’re often easier and more convenient to keep on hand in your spice cabinet (rather than tending to a garden of spices). indoor or outdoor aromatic herbs) and are often more economical.

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“Some dried herbs, like basil, actually tend to be more concentrated in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than fresh ones,” Ehsani says.

Read on to learn the dirt of herbs, the health benefits of herbs for athletes, and several ways to plant more of them on your plate.

What nutrients will you get from herbs?

“The specific compounds and nutrients found in herbs vary, as do fruits and vegetables,” confirms Lauren RanleyMS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian based in Norfolk, Massachusetts.

Even though they are very low in calories and macronutrients, each variety offers legitimate health benefits per leaf. Ahead is nutritional information per chopped 2 tablespoon serving of some of the most common fresh herbs, according to the USDA.

Nutritional benefits of basil:

  • 1 calorie
  • 16mg potassium
  • 22 mcg vitamin K
  • 166 mcg of beta-carotene
  • 299 µg lutein + zeaxanthin

Nutritional benefits of rosemary:

  • 5 calories
  • 23mg potassium
  • 11mg Calcium
  • 5 mcg vitamin A

Nutritional benefits of mint:

  • 2 calories
  • ½ g of carbohydrates
  • 18mg potassium
  • 7 mcg vitamin A

Nutritional benefits of thyme:

  • 5 calories
  • 1 g of carbohydrates
  • ½g fiber
  • 29mg potassium
  • 11 mcg vitamin A
  • 137 mcg of beta-carotene

Nutritional benefits of parsley:

  • 3 calories
  • ½ g of carbohydrates
  • 42mg potassium
  • 32 mcg vitamin A
  • 125 mcg vitamin K
  • 384 mcg of beta-carotene
  • 422 µg lutein + zeaxanthin

Nutritional Benefits of Cilantro:

  • 10mg potassium
  • 27 mcg vitamin A
  • 79 mcg of beta-carotene
  • 17 µg lutein + zeaxanthin

What are the health benefits of herbs?

Help you reduce sodium

“A lot of times when people try to reduce salt in their diet, they think they’ll end up with flavorless food. But when you add herbs, you can boost flavor and nutrition at the same time, and you don’t you probably won’t even realize it’s missing salt,” says Jenna A. Werner, RD, creator of happy strong healthy in Middletown, New Jersey. “This exchange is so good for your heart health.”

Reduce inflammation

Fresh herbs often have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can be attributed to specific compounds such as alkaloids, phenolic acids, vitamins, flavonoids and polyphenols. All herbs have slightly different nutritional values, but most contain one or more of these antioxidants.

Endurance exercise causes an inflammatory response in the body, although beneficial, but compounds found in herbs can help lower those levels of inflammation, Ranley says.

Ehsani agrees: “As runners go through tough workouts, there can be a buildup of inflammation in the body that could be reduced by incorporating more herbs, fresh or dried, into their diet.”

Less acute inflammation is key to bouncing back faster after tough workouts, and less chronic inflammation—to research proves that antioxidants can also help keep chronic inflammation at bay, which means a potentially lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain autoimmune diseases, arthritis and other conditions.

Helps prevent certain diseases

Oregano, in particular, and the essential oils made from it, have been shown to provide antibacterial and antiviral benefits, Ehsani says. Although most studies have yet to be done on humans, she adds, scientists have found oregano to be effective against bacteria, making it a beneficial spice to incorporate into dishes to prevent growth. bacteria that could lead to foodborne illnesses.

“Oregano also has antiviral properties,” says Ehsani, which means it can support your immune system.

Support bone and heart health

In addition to providing vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium, 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley contains 137% of your daily vitamin K intake.

Vitamin K is an important nutrient that helps support bone and heart health, two key factors in helping runners stay healthy and strong throughout their lives,” says Ehsani.

Almost every herb contains at least a little potassiuma mineral that, when consumed in sufficient amounts, is linked to lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease.

Soothe digestive disorders

If she had to choose the best herb for runners, Ehsani says she loves mint.

“Often, runners complain of a lack of appetite or mild nausea after running or after intense training runs, and [they] may need something to calm their upset stomach. mint can help relieve stomach upset because it works to relax the stomach, reduce nausea, and calm bloating,” she explains. “Use it to brew fresh tea or add it to your post-workout smoothie.”

You’ll get the same stomach-soothing benefits from dried mint as fresh, so feel free to brew tea from dried mint leaves or even sprinkle dried mint into plain Greek yogurt for a dip or dressing. tasty.

15 ways to add herbs to your diet

It’s easy to tell when fresh herbs are past their prime: they will begin to wilt or turn brown or yellow. Dried herbs, however, are a bit more difficult to monitor.

“Keep in mind that dried herbs don’t last forever,” says Ehsani. “Herbs will lose some of their nutritional value over time, especially if they sit in your spice cabinet for years without being replaced.”

Aim to replace the dried herbs between each 6 months to 1 year. Use a marker to date each pot you add to your collection to keep track of your stock and know when it’s time to replace each herb.

Once you have everything ready, here’s how to use it wisely.

  1. Mix almost any fresh herb into your next salad
  2. Mix a pesto with one or more fresh herbs, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast for a vegan option) and nuts or seeds
  3. Add cilantro to guacamole, salsa, or almost any Mexican-inspired recipe
  4. Season the proteins with rosemary, sage and/or thyme
  5. Mix a chimichurri with fresh herbs, vinegar, olive oil and crushed red pepper flakes
  6. Use herbs in almost all savory dishes instead of all or part of the salt
  7. Incorporate fresh or dried herbs into soups, stews or pasta sauces
  8. Tuck fresh herbs into wraps or sandwiches
  9. Add fresh or dried rosemary, oregano or basil to pizza, cookie or bread dough
  10. Stir fresh or dried herbs into hummus or cheese dip
  11. Fold dried herbs in pans
  12. Shake fresh herbs into cocktails
  13. Infuse water with fresh rosemary, basil or mint
  14. Freeze fresh herb ice cubes to add to water or oil cubes to incorporate into dishes later
  15. Add fresh or dried herbs to homemade dressings

The basics on the health benefits of herbs

“Herbs pack powerful flavors in small amounts with no added sodium, making them a great way to enhance the flavors of your meals,” says Werner.

Although the nutritional benefits are quite similar, their flavors vary widely. And it pays to mix things up. “As we suggest for fruits and vegetables, one isn’t necessarily better than the other,” Ranley adds. “Consuming a wide variety of herbs is the best way to get the full nutritional benefits.”

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Richard V. Johnson