Top 5 Ingredients to Make Your Dinner Healthier and Tastier
Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite. It was originally published on October 27, 2012. Enjoy!
Stepping out of my front door to pick some fresh herbs to throw in with whatever’s on the menu for dinner is one of my favorite activities. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to grow these five in my backyard, but they are all pretty common, and readily available.
Anyone who has grown basil knows that it can take off alarmingly fast. You will never be at a loss for a few leaves to add to your salads and stews, your pesto, or your fresh tomato and mozzarella salad, a personal favorite. But did you know that two tablespoons of basil will give you 27% of your daily requirement of Vitamin K, which plays a vital role in strengthening your bones? Basil also contains minerals like potassium, manganese, copper and magnesium, as well as plenty of Vitamin A.
Fun fact: A flavor drink made of basil seeds is popular in some Asian countries.
One of my favorite tricks when I go hiking is to place some sage in my jacket pocket, ready to be discovered the next time I head to the mountains. Others think of sage as a tool in spiritual cleansing, in a process known as smudging. But sage has health and nutritional benefits too: it is a rich source of many B-complex groups of vitamins, like folic acid, thiamin and riboflavin, and also contains a good amount of Vitamins A, C and K. You can use sage for stuffing, as well as in many veggie dishes and as a garnish for your salads.
Fun fact: garden sage, considered a guardian over other herbs, has been one of the most popular herbs since ancient Roman times.
Right up there next to sage in terms of distinctive aromas is thyme, one of the most commonly used medicinal herbs. It’s full of minerals like potassium, iron, calcium, manganese and magnesium as well as vitamins such Vitamins A, K, E and C, all of which are essential for good health. As an added bonus, thyme is very low in cholesterol and sodium. Use thyme sparingly, since it has an intense flavor. Add it to soups or stews, but wait until the last minute because its essential oils can evaporate quickly.
Fun fact: bouquet garni is composed of thyme, bay leaf, parsley and celery.
Who can resist the alluring scent of cilantro? I first came across this herb in a delicious Mexican ceviche, and since then have discovered that I can cultivate it very easily in my garden. Here are just a few of the health benefits of cilantro: it works to protect against bacterial infection form salmonella; it can reduce nauseous feelings; it has been known to alleviate menstrual cramping; it helps to stave off urinary tract infections; and since it is a good source of iron and magnesium, it also works to fight anemia. Cilantro is probably one of your favorite ingredients in Mexican salsa, but try it in soups, in sauces and in your casseroles. Since I grow my own, I can always get it fresh, but if you are buying it, be sure to avoid leaves and stems that are wilted.
Fun fact: Cilantro is an essential ingredient in dishes prepared all around the world, from Central and South America, to the Middle and Far East.
5. Garlic and Onions
Since I tend to add garlic and/or onions to everything that I’m cooking, I was happy to read that these two are great for the heart, since they thin blood to control blood pressure, and for the immune system. In addition, garlic contains Vitamins C, B6 and selenium, and it is also anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral. Onions work as anti-inflammatories and are rich in Vitamin C; they are also anti-bacterial and help prevent constipation. And did you know that there are many types of onion, including the Western Yellow, the New York Bold, and the Northern Red, and that the more you cry when chopping onions, the better they will work to defend you against infection? Add garlic and onions to sauces, salads, soups, fish and meat dishes, and enjoy!
Fun fact: garlic keeps the devil away!
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