Posts filed under ‘about food’
Herbs. So underrated. Their potent flavors liven up any dish graced with their fresh crispness or dry, crumbly comfort. And your immune system rejoices when garnering their support. Perfect for the Fall and Winter seasons when we face an onslaught of viruses, bacteria, and other would-be invaders.
Here, I’ve highlighted just a few of the amazing healing herbs you should have in your pantry plus some easy tips and tricks for using them in everyday dishes. These herbs are easy to find and easy to use. They are all antioxidant powerhouses with dozens of beneficial phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients).
And, remember: herbs are potent. Just because they’re good for you doesn’t mean you need to or should eat a lot of them. Typical serving sizes are anywhere from 1/2 – 3 TBS of fresh herbs or 1/2 – 2 tsp of dry herbs, depending on taste. Just like with any food (“healthy” or not), moderation is key. Here, I’m referring to herbs that you can eat as part of meals, not special herbal oils or medicinal preparations, which may require you to get personalized advice from an herbal expert (for example, parsley oil can be used to induce labor, which you certainly don’t want to do if you’re otherwise healthfully pregnant).
From the same family as carrots, celery, and fennel, parsley is a versatile herb that usually gets dismissed as a garnish. It’s one of my personal favorites and I always have a little “parsley tree” sitting in my fridge, with the stems submersed in a cup of water to keep it vibrant. Parsley contains one of the highest levels of chlorophyll of any edible plant. Chlorophyll is a breath freshener and a fantastic blood purifier. Parsley is a digestive aid, can help dry up mucous-y conditions and helps in the treatment of ear infections and earaches. It contains several times the vitamin C content of citrus and has high levels of provitamin A, calcium, magnesium, and iron. It can work as a diuretic, though, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids if you are down with the flu or a cold.
Apart from being a fantastic herb to cook with, thyme is a natural antiseptic that has antibacterial and antiparasitic properties. It also has antispasmodic tendencies; coupled as a digestive aid, it can help soothe gastrointestinal distress. It can also loosen phlegm as an expectorant, in case you’re feeling somewhat mucous-y and don’t have parsley on hand.
Delicate dill is a digestive aid and infection fighter as an antibacterial. Also known as a calming agent, along with basil.
Similar to thyme, oregano is an expectorant and digestive aid, as well as an antimicrobial (antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, antifungal) herb. It’s also been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you’re not pregnant or on blood-thinners or other medications, you can try a simple tea like the one I like to make if my system feels a bit rundown: fill an empty teabag (you can get them at almost any coffee shop or grocery store) with 1 tsp of dried oregano and steep it 3-5 minutes for a refreshing, warming tea, up to three cups a day. Don’t do this more than 2-3 times a week, just to be on the safe side. I repeat: this is not conducive for a daily tea habit.
A helpful decongestant and antimicrobial, and powerful antioxidant used since the good ol’ times to preserve meat and keep it from spoiling, along with thyme (now, that’s a powerful antioxidant!). You can prepare Rosemary as a tea to help with digestive issues or as a decongestant – refer to the Oregano example.
Not surprisingly, the source of mint’s lovely aroma is also the source of many of its many healing properties: the oil called menthol. Mint has been shown to kill the herpes simplex virus and is a proven antibacterial as well as decongestant, anesthetic, digestive aid, and muscle antispasmodic. Peppermint tea is a fantastic treat any time of day, although pregnant women should only drink the tea brewed very weakly, as the antispasmodic properties could relax the lining of the uterus.
Basil, oh, basil, how I love thee. Let me count the ways: you’re an antimicrobial (anti-bacterial/viral/fungal/parasitic), fever reducer, concentration improver, immune system regulator, adrenal (stress hormone) regulator, and just plain delicious. One of my favorite teas (as any client of mine who has rummaged in my tea drawer knows) is Holy Basil, or Tulsi, tea. A brand called Organic India makes a good one. Try it out.
So, run out and stock up on these green herbs that belong in your Fall / Winter pantry. Fresh or dry, doesn’t matter. But it’s fun to use both, as they lend themselves to different preparations and flavor profiles in foods.
How to Use Herbs
The fresh herbs are delicate, so rather than cook with them, fold them into cooked meals right before serving, or sprinkle the finely chopped herb on top before serving, such as on top of grains, soup, or stews, or make a fresh herb salad and add in other favorite ingredients. Fresh herbs will last up to a week. Store fresh parsley, rosemary, oregano, and dill like I do – with their stems in water. I set them in a tumbler on the side ledge of my fridge and they flourish there all week long, reminding me to tear off a handful every time I open the fridge door. For mint and basil, wrap them up in a dry paper towel (or just wet the ends of the towel near the stems’ ends) and store in the veggie bin away from light and direct blasts of cold air in the fridge.
The dry herbs, if stored properly away from heat and light, will last you quite a while, and are fantastic as teas, meat or poultry rubs, for flavoring stews and soups while cooking, sprinkled on top of grains with maybe some sesame seeds, and in salad dressings.
And you can always dehydrate fresh herbs to make your own dry herbs. Just lay them out on a clean, dry towel, in direct sunlight if possible, until they are completely dried up, then crumble up and store in a cleaned, reused herb bottle, preferably glass.
Check out some of my recipes that make liberal use of herbs:
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Why do you butter me up, buttercup, just to let me down?
Ah sugar, ah honey honey
[You are my candy...]
And you got me wanting you
Pour some sugar on me…
All popular lyrics, all probably written by sugar addicts. It’s not hard to imagine: lovesick songwriter, writing the lyrics as she snarfs down a pint of icecream or as he drowns his sorrows with a wine spritzer.
Ok, just having some fun there but – really – you know those sugar cravings? The ones that seem to take over beyond any reason, or hang around on the periphery of your consciousness until you take those fateful steps towards your hidden stash, vending machine, or corner Starbucks? Sugar cravings love to come alive around 3-4pm, right after dinner, or (and?) when you get home from another stressful day at work. Or when you’re bored. Or sad.
It’s not your fault. We’re genetically programmed to crave sugar. Way back when, that probably translated into us raiding bee hives. These days we can bypass the stings and just make do with a chocolate chip cookie… or three.
Sugar cravings are the result of a constellation of factors and they’re very unique to you. No two people, no two bodies are alike. Your life habits, food choices and patterns, emotions, brain chemistry, blood chemistry, stressors, time of day, and nutritional deficiencies all feed into it. Pun intended.
While we tend to associate “sugar cravings” with baked goods, chocolate, and candy, I include artificial sweeteners, alcohol, and pasta, bagels, most cereals, and other refined-carb-heavy foods in there as well. Sugar can wreak havoc on your body, contributing to or directly causing stress, anxiety or depression, energy slumps, yeast infections, autoimmune symptoms, migraines, diabetes, IBS, and a weakened immune system. Sugar feeds cancer and has even been connected to alcoholism. My personal pet peeve regarding sugar is that it saps me of my fabulous natural high when I do choose to have some. Not so sweet.
The good news is that you can rid yourself of sugar cravings in as little as a week. You can learn to deconstruct your cravings, learn about your body’s signals and what they’re telling you, and harness that deep power to your advantage so that you can have uplifting, steady energy throughout the day. No more guilt trips or dreading the scale. No more jittery nerves. No more crashes and burns. No more distracting cravings.
Wouldn’t it be great to no longer be a slave to sugar but just enjoy it when you feel like it, without g-u-i-l-t? The process is fascinating, fun, extremely effective, and deceivingly simple.
If you want to get there, join me on September 17th for my live webinar, Sugar Blues! Click here for details and to sign up. I may not give this webinar again, so join me while you can! It may just change your life.
And if you don’t, don’t say I didn’t try to help you, sugar.