Too often overlooked, herbs enliven a dish with healthy bursts of flavor and health benefits. Herbs are many and varied. Try cooking with herbs the next time you’re preparing a dish and want a wholesome twist without the fat, sugar and salt everyone should avoid.
Make time for thyme. Thyme is a perennial herb common in the Mediterranean but a favorite everywhere. Add thyme for an aromatic punch of flavor. Thyme has also long been used in natural medicine for chest and respiratory issues, including coughs and congestion. Researchers have discovered volatile oil components in thyme that include carvacrol, borneol, geraniol and thymol. Some say these have healing effects. Concentrated thymol is so potent the Environmental Protection Agency regulates its use as a safe pesticide. It is also used as an antiseptic and disinfectant and for wound treatment. Use thyme in dishes with eggs, beans, potatoes, chicken squash and tomatoes. There’s almost nothing that would not benefit from a little thyme.
Jive with the chive. Once a baked potato garnish, the chive has actual health benefits and a light onion flavor. Chives can be used fresh, chopped and sprinkled over any main dish, salad, pasta dish, soup or vegetable side. Chives also contain the nutrient allicin. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, allicin — also found in garlic and onions — is a known antimicrobial. It is additionally thought to contribute to lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and boosting heart health. This nutrient may also cut blood pressure and prevent harmful blood clots. If you’re tired of bananas and need a potassium source, chives have that, too.
Use oregano for good health. Common in Mexican and Italian cooking, oregano adds zest and zing to tomato dishes, stuffed peppers, pasta sauces and salads. It is also full of vitamin K, iron, manganese and fiber. Fresh oregano has a sweeter taste than the slightly bitter dried variety. Oregano contains thymol and rosmarinic, a potent antioxidant. Research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture has shown that pound for pound, oregano has much more antioxidant power than apples, berries and vegetables.
Rosemary is a wise choice. This herb is flavorfully assertive and smells divine, but it’s also good for you. Use the striking flavor of rosemary in dishes that can stand up to it. Chicken, fish, lamb, pork, roasted red potatoes and tomato-based dishes are all excellent companions to the rosemary herb. Rosemary has been linked to increasing circulation, improving digestion and supporting the immune system. As reported by Science Daily, studies by the Journal of Neurochemistry and Nature Reviews Neuroscience, the carnosic acid found in rosemary may shield the brain from free radicals and may have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
Fresh herbs are always best and should be cleaned completely before use. Rinse and dry fresh herbs before adding at the end of cooking for the boldest dash of flavor. Many herbs can be frozen for use throughout the year. Dried herbs are concentrated, and most recipes require less of them. Replace dried herbs regularly for maximum benefits. Cooking with herbs is a delicious and exciting way to prepare your foods in healthy and inventive ways.