The supermarket herbs which could boost your health
-Nov 20, Caroline Blight, Nutrition -
There was a time when the only herbs you would find in a supermarket were a glass jar of mixed Italian herbs. Now even the smallest shops have a few of the world’s most loved herbs available fresh. And there are some great health reasons to add them to your shopping list – as we found out from nutritionist Emma Brown.
If you don’t have a garden, you can still grow herbs on your windowsill at home, or even inside if you’re careful with watering and keep them in a light, airy place. A lot of them really perk up soups, salads and main courses, but they can also be good for your health too.
Basil – more than just a way to jazz up salads
This fragrant her is also a staple in supermarkets as we use it so much in Italian-style meals. But, it’s got more to offer than just being a nice accompaniment to pasta!
“Basil has been found to have anti-ageing effects and is associated with blood pressure reduction,” explains Emma.
In several studies, the anti-inflammatory properties of basil have been linked to lowering the risk of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and soothing fever, headache, sore throat, cold, cough, flu.
Mint – a peppy herb for cold relief as well as great with Sunday lunch
This herb grows in abundance in the wild and has so many different variations.
Mint also contains menthol, which can relieve the symptoms of a common cold: “It assists by opening up our nasal passages to aid decongestion,” says Emma. Try adding it to green tea to make a drink or seeping the leaves in water with a little honey and lemon juice for a quick, easy and natural cold remedy.
Mint is also high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid. This has been linked to relieving seasonal allergy symptoms. And, of course, chewing fresh mint leaves is a natural way of freshening your breath – the fact it’s also a natural anti-microbial agent is great for your oral health too.
Rosemary – a vitamin packed memory booster
It might look a little spiky but this fragrant herb is packed with iron, calcium and vitamin B. In the past rosemary was revered for its health benefits and traditionally used to treat muscle pain, boost the immune and circulatory system, and even promote hair growth. Many studies have also found it could be useful for helping our memory too.
“This herb is so powerful, that simply smelling it can boost memory!” says Emma. In fact one study found students who took exams with the smell of rosemary in the room performed better in the memory tasks than participants in the other room. “So next time you’ve got a test coming up – scent the room with rosemary and reap the reward in your results!” suggests Emma. Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, so could provide a useful immune system boost.
Parsley – a natural breath freshener
It’s one of the most common herbs we pick up when we shop and is used in so many dishes. And thank goodness we are making the most of this herb as it’s so good for us.
“There is some research to suggest parsley can help to aid digestion and promote digestive health, protecting us against stomach ulcers in particular,” says Emma. “Staying with the digestive theme, eating fresh parsley has been associated with freshening breath. A compound in the herb helps to kill off the bacteria that live in our mouths and cause odours. It can also help to reduce the well-known after-effect of eating garlic – which is why parsley and garlic often appear together in dishes!”
And, because it’s also a diuretic, a tea made with parsley could provide a great way to detoxify your body and relieve yourself from water retention and bloating.