Mediterranean Diet: Herbs

Posted on May 3rd, 2018
The Mediterranean diet places large emphasis on eating a variety of plant-based foods, including the consistent intake of vegetables. Vegetables provide fiber, and are rich in micronutrients, but have you ever considered the nutritional benefits of herbs? Herbs, like other leafy greens, are nutrient-dense with the added bonus of elevating the flavor of food. Truly, most herbs can be included in just about any savory or sweet meal, so don’t feel limited by classic flavor pairings.

Basil

Basil contains phytochemicals that have shown to prevent various cancers in preclinical studies.1
EAT: Use it in pesto for pasta, pizza, & even popcorn! It’s also lovely tossed into mixed salad greens for a brighter flavor. Basic Pesto Recipe

Cilantro

Antibiotic phenols found in cilantro play a role in disease resistance.2
EAT: Add to cooked rice for a fresh take, add to salsa or guacamole, or even mix into veggie burger patties or falafel. Baked Falafel Salad Green Goddess Yogurt Dressing

Mint

Mint is rich in calcium, iron, and potassium: essential for bone and heart health.3
EAT: Add to mixed fruit bowls, salads, smoothies, or brew it as tea

Oregano

Oregano contains an anti-inflammatory phenolic compound called rosmarinic acid.4
EAT: Use it in non-traditional pesto or add it to cooked beans. Simple Stove-Top Black Beans

Parsley

Myristicin in parsley may have cancer-fighting properties, as shown in one study.5
EAT: Use it to make tabbouleh or in chimichurri to top grilled meat. This versatile herb can be included in just about any savory dish, mixing and topping salads, soups, and countless dishes of many cuisines. Mediterranean Salad Bowl

Rosemary

Long-term daily intake of rosemary has shown to play a role in prevention of blood clots. Many studies also suggest rosemary extract can inhibit the growth of cancerous cells.6
EAT: Rosemary & lemon infused water, seasoning for roasted chicken, beef, or lamb, or to flavor homemade popcorn. Savory Herb & Duck Fat Popcorn

Sage

Sage has shown to have anti-diabetic effects in multiple studies.7
EAT: Pairs well with winter squash; try roasting butternut squash with dried sage, or in this beautiful Green Soup with Sage.

Thyme

Thyme contains Thymol, which has shown to increase heart health in an animal study.8
EAT: Pairs well with mushrooms in a risotto, or try in a blackberry, lemon, & thyme muffin (play around with subbing some of the butter for oil and applesauce and reducing the sugar to boost the nutrition in the muffin recipe- then let us know how they turn out!)
Blog post originally hosted on the Reasor’s Healthy Living Facebook page.
Sources
1. Baliga, M. S., Jimmy, K. R. Thilakchand, V. Sunitha, N. R. Bhat, et al. “Ocimum Sanctum L (Holy Basil and Tulsi) and Its Phytochemicals in the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer.” Nutrition and Cancer. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
2. Mandal, Shyamapada, Manisha Mandal. “Coriander (Coriandrum Sativum L.) Essential Oil: Chemistry and Biological Activity.” Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, June 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
3. “Spearmint, Fresh.” Food Composition Databases Show Foods – Spearmint, Fresh. United States Department of Agriculture, May 2016. Web. 25 Apr 2017.
4. Rocha, J., M. Eduardo-Figueira, A. Fernandes, et al. “Anti-inflammatory Effect of Rosmarinic Acid and an Extract of Rosmarinus Officinalis in Rat models of Local and Systemic Inflammation.” Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.
5. Zheng, Guo Qiang, Patrick M. Kenney, and Luke K.T. Lam, “Myristicin: A Potential Cancer Chemopreventive Agent from Parsley Leaf Oil.” AS Publications. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Jan. 1992. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
6. “Rosemary.” University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., 6 June 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
7. Lima, C. F., M. F. Azevedo, R. Araujo, M. Fernandes-Ferreira, and C. Pereira-Wilson. “Metformin-like Effect of Salvia Officinalis (common Sage): Is it Useful in Diabetes Prevention?” The British Journal of Nutrition. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2006. Web. 25. 2017.
8. Ya-Mei, Yu. “Thymol Reduces Oxidative Stress, Aortic Intimal Thickening, and Inflammation-related Gene Expression in Hyperlipidemic Rabbits.” Science Direct. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, July 2016. Web.
Information included does not constitute medical advice and should only be used as a general recommendation for a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle. The Reasor’s Registered Dietitian opinions and recommendations are her own; she is not paid to endorse any products or services.