These six healthy herbs can add plenty to a meal


Small amounts of fresh herbs can be added to spice up healthy snacks such as sandwiches. — dpa

It’s not just about the flavours: Fresh herbs are also packed with healthy ingredients and should be added to dishes whenever you get the chance.

Herbs tend to be underappreciated. They bring more to a meal than merely flavouring and garnishing – they’re also very healthy in themselves.

“Herbs’ pluses include secondary metabolites as well as vitamins and minerals,” points out Silke Restemeyer, spokeswoman for the German Nutrition Society (DGE).

Secondary metabolites are compounds produced by plants that aren’t essential for their growth, development or reproduction.

Rather, they help the plants survive, for example by being toxic or repellent to herbivores and microbes.

In humans, they can have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory or anti-hypertensive effects, and some are used as medicines or recreational drugs.

Essential oils in herbs, which are also secondary plant metabolites, are among their assets.

“The strong fragrance of basil and thyme, for instance, is an indication of their high level of essential oils,” says Daniela Krehl, a nutrition expert for Bavaria’s consumer advice centre.

Depending on the herb, the oils can, among other things, stimulate your appetite or calm you down.

Some can help prevent flatulence.

Here are six common herbs and their health benefits:

In addition to vitamins C and K, parsley contains minerals such as iron as well as beta carotene, a red-orange pigment found in plants that’s converted by the body into vitamin A.

According to Restemeyer, it stimulates several immune system functions and is also an antioxidant, a substance that protects the body from damage by unstable molecules called free radicals.

Its essential oils whet the appetite and help prevent digestive problems such as an unpleasant feeling of fullness, flatulence and gastrointestinal spasms.

Coriander also contains vitamin C.

Along with beta carotene, it’s got magnesium and iron.

Basil is an appetite-stimulant and has both diuretic and antihypertensive effects.

It’s also said to be beneficial to the digestive system.

A source of B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals including calcium, iron and potassium, lovage is appetising and, according to the DGE, a diuretic.

The tannins in it aid digestion and are antiflatulent. They can have an antiperspirant effect too.

What’s more, sage has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

The culinary herb contains beta carotene in addition to vitamin C, calcium and potassium.

It’s an antiflatulent, the DGE says, and also helps the body’s cells to regenerate.

Iron and calcium are found in thyme.

And thanks to the popular herb’s antiviral and expectorant effects, it’s also often consumed as a tea to alleviate a cough or scratchy throat.

As this listing shows, there are plenty of good reasons to eat fresh herbs beyond the flavour and colour they impart to dishes.

Are they suitable as a healthy between-meal snack too?

Both Restemeyer and Krehl give a thumbs-down on this point.

“They’re not really filling,” notes Restemeyer.

And Krehl warns that eating too many herbs in one sitting can even be harmful: “The essential oils in many herbs can irritate the stomach lining and cause stomach problems.”

On the other hand, you can definitely use small amounts of them to spice up other healthy snacks, “such as a few basil leaves on an open-faced cheese sandwich, or quark with fresh herbs on a slice of wholemeal bread,” suggests Restemeyer.

As herbs are very sensitive plants, they should be consumed as quickly as possible after purchase.

“To keep them fresh for a few days, you can chop them, wrap them in a damp cloth and put them into the refrigerator,” Krehl says.

Or you can moisten them slightly, put them into a perforated plastic bag and then into the refrigerator.

If you want to keep them longer than a few days, you can dry or freeze them.

You can hang up small bunches of herb sprigs in clothesline fashion, for example.

“Many herbs aren’t suited for drying, however,” says Krehl. Among them are cress and chives.

To freeze herbs, first wash them and chop them up into small pieces.

Then put them into the cubes of an ice-cube tray, adding a few drops of water, and place the tray into the freezer compartment.

The herb cubes can later be thawed out and added to stews or meat dishes. – dpa

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Nutrition , Herbs , Spices


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