The Health Benefits of Herbs Go Beyond Maxing Out the Flavor of Your Meals (2022)

You might think of herbs as a garnish or an afterthought, but it’s time to give that rosemary, basil, parsley, and cilantro some respect—and a prominent place on your plate.

“Both fresh or dried herbs are nutrient-dense leaves,” says Roxana Ehsani, RD, CSSD, a Miami-based board certified sports dietitian and a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “They’re packed with flavor, and when added to dishes, can bring out new elements when paired with other foods.”

Both fresh and dried varieties come loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, Ehsani adds. That means there’s no need to diss dried—especially because they’re often easier and more practical to keep on-hand in your spice cabinet (rather than tending to an indoor or outdoor herb garden) and are often more budget-friendly.

“Some dried herbs, like basil, actually tend to be more concentrated in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than fresh,” Ehsani says.

Read on for the dirt on herbs, the health benefits of herbs for athletes, and several ways to plant more onto your plate.

What nutrients will you get from herbs?

“The specific compounds and nutrients found in herbs will vary, just like with fruits and vegetables,” confirms Lauren Ranley, MS, RD, LDN, a Norfolk, Massachusetts-based dietitian.

Even though they’re very low in calories and macronutrients, each variety delivers some legit health benefits per leaf. Ahead, the nutrition facts per 2-tablespoon chopped serving of some of the most common fresh herbs, according to the USDA.

Nutrition benefits of basil:

  • 1 calorie
  • 16 mg potassium
  • 22 µg vitamin K
  • 166 µg beta carotene
  • 299 µg lutein + zeaxanthin

Nutrition benefits of rosemary:

  • 5 calories
  • 23 mg potassium
  • 11 mg calcium
  • 5 µg vitamin A

Nutrition benefits of mint:

  • 2 calories
  • ½ g carbohydrates
  • 18 mg potassium
  • 7 µg vitamin A

Nutrition benefits of thyme:

  • 5 calories
  • 1 g carbohydrates
  • ½ g fiber
  • 29 mg potassium
  • 11 µg vitamin A
  • 137 µg beta carotene

Nutrition benefits of parsley:

  • 3 calories
  • ½ g carbohydrates
  • 42 mg potassium
  • 32 µg vitamin A
  • 125 µg vitamin K
  • 384 µg beta carotene
  • 422 µg lutein + zeaxanthin

Nutrition benefits of cilantro:

  • < 1 calorie
  • 10 mg potassium
  • 27 µg vitamin A
  • 79 µg beta carotene
  • 17 µg lutein + zeaxanthin

What are the health benefits of herbs?

Help you reduce sodium

“Often, when people try to reduce salt in their diet, they think they will be left with flavorless food. But when you add herbs, you can increase flavor and nutrition at the same time, and you likely won’t even realize the salt is missing,” says Jenna A. Werner, RD, creator of Happy Strong Healthy in Middletown, New Jersey. “This swap is so good for your heart health.”

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Lower inflammation

Fresh herbs often have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can be attributed to specific compounds such as alkaloids, phenolic acids, vitamins, flavonoids, and polyphenols. All herbs have slightly different nutritional facts, but most contain one or several of these antioxidants.

Endurance exercise prompts an inflammatory response within the body, albeit a beneficial one, but the compounds found in herbs can help bring down those inflammation levels, Ranley says.

Ehsani agrees: “As runners undergo hard bouts of training there may be a buildup of inflammation in the body that could get lowered by incorporating more herbs, either fresh or dried, into their diet.”

Less acute inflammation is key to bouncing back from tough training sessions quicker, and less chronic inflammation—research proves that antioxidants can also assist in keeping chronic inflammation at bay—means potentially lower risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some autoimmune diseases, arthritis, and more conditions.

Help prevent certain illnesses

Oregano, in particular, and essential oils made from it, have been shown to offer antibacterial and antiviral benefits, Ehsani says. Although most studies have not been done on humans yet, she adds, scientists found that oregano was effective against bacteria, therefore a beneficial spice to incorporate into dishes to prevent bacteria growth that might lead to foodborne illness.

“Oregano also has antiviral properties,” Ehsani says, which means it may support your immune system.

Support bone and heart health

In addition to offering some vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium, 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley packs in 137 percent of your daily value of vitamin K.

Vitamin K is an important nutrient that helps support both bone and heart health—two vital factors to help keep runners healthy and strong throughout the lifespan,” Ehsani says.

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Nearly every herb contains at least some potassium, a mineral that, when consumed in adequate quantities, is linked to lower blood pressure and decreased risk for heart disease.

Ease digestive distress

If she had to pick the best herb for runners, Ehsani says she’s partial to mint.

“Often runners complain of poor appetite or slight nausea postrace or after hard training runs, and [they] may need something to calm down their queasy stomachs. Mint can help ease an upset stomach, as it works to relax the stomach, reduce nausea, and calm bloating,” she explains. “Use it to brew fresh tea or add it to your post-workout smoothie.”

You’ll score the same stomach-soothing benefits from dried mint as fresh, so feel free to brew tea from dried mint leaves or even sprinkle some dried mint into plain Greek yogurt for a savory dip or dressing.

15 ways to add herbs to your diet

It’s easy to tell when fresh herbs are past their prime: They’ll begin to wilt or turn brown or yellow. Dried herbs are a bit tougher to keep tabs on, though.

“Keep in mind that dried herbs don’t last forever,” Ehsani explains. “Herbs will lose some of their nutritional value with time, especially if they’re sitting in your spice cabinet for years without being replaced.”

Aim to replace dried herbs between every 6 months to 1 year. Use a marker to date each jar you add to your collection to track your stock and know when it’s time to replace each herb.

Once you’ve got your supply all set, here’s how to put it to delicious use.

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  1. Toss nearly any fresh herb into your next salad
  2. Blitz up a pesto with one or more fresh herbs, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast for a vegan option) and nuts or seeds
  3. Add cilantro to guacamole, salsa, or pretty much any Mexican-inspired recipe
  4. Season protein with rosemary, sage, and/or thyme
  5. Blend up a chimichurri with fresh herbs, vinegar, olive oil, and crushed red pepper flakes
  6. Use herbs in nearly any savory dish instead of all or some of the salt
  7. Stir fresh or dried herbs into soups, stews, or pasta sauces
  8. Tuck fresh herbs inside wraps or sandwiches
  9. Add fresh or dried rosemary, oregano, or basil to pizza, biscuit, or bread dough
  10. Stir fresh or dried herbs into hummus or cheese dip
  11. Fold dried herbs into casseroles
  12. Shake fresh herbs into cocktails
  13. Infuse water with fresh rosemary, basil, or mint
  14. Freeze fresh herb ice cubes to add to water or oil cubes to stir into dishes later
  15. Add fresh or dried herbs to homemade salad dressings

The bottom line on the health benefits of herbs

“Herbs pack powerful flavors in small amounts without added sodium, making them such a great way to enhance the flavors of your meals,” Werner says.

While the nutritional benefits are fairly similar, their flavors vary widely. And it pays off to mix things up. “As we suggest for fruits and vegetables, one is not necessarily better than the other,” Ranley adds. “Consuming a wide variety of herbs is the best way to get all of the nutritional benefits.”

Karla Walsh

Karla Walsh is a Des Moines, Iowa-basedfreelance writer and level one sommelier who balances her love of food and drink with her passion for fitness. (Or tries to, at least!) Her writing has been published in Runner’s World and Fitness Magazines, as well as on Shape.com, EatThis.com, WomensHealthMag.com, and more.

This content is imported from OpenWeb. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

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FAQs

What are the health benefits of herbs? ›

Consuming herbs may help to prevent and manage heart disease, cancer and diabetes. It may also help to reduce blood clots and provide anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour properties. Research is ongoing but studies have shown that: Garlic, linseed, fenugreek and lemongrass may help lower cholesterol.

What are the benefits of using herbs in cooking? ›

Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor, color, and fragrance to dishes without adding extra fat, sugar, or salt. They also provide powerful antioxidants, and have a range of other health benefits! Herbs, like parsley, sage, rosemary, basil, thyme, and dill, are leaves and can be used fresh or dried.

Why do we add herbs at the end of cooking in order to achieve the strongest flavor? ›

Ground spices and herbs release their flavors readily. In long cooking dishes, such as stews, add these near the end of the cooking time to minimize the “cooking off” of its flavors.

What are herbs Short answer? ›

Herbs generally refers to the leafy green or flowering parts of a plant (either fresh or dried), while spices are usually dried and produced from other parts of the plant, including seeds, bark, roots and fruits.

What is the most important herb? ›

Turmeric is certainly the most powerful herb on the planet. It is from the ginger family that is primarily grown in India, China and Indonesia. It contains various compounds with medicinal properties. For example, turmeric contains Curcumin which is a powerful antioxidant that boosts the body's own antioxidant enzymes.

Is cooking with herbs healthy? ›

Both are used to flavor food, but research shows they're chock-full of healthy compounds and may have health benefits. “Herbs and spices fight inflammation and reduce damage to your body's cells,” Moreno says. “That's because each one is rich in phytochemicals, which are healthful plant chemicals.”

What are two advantages of using herbs and spices when cooking? ›

They not only add unique flavors to our food, but contribute color and variety as well. Certain spices and herbs used alone, or in blends, can replace or reduce salt and sugar in foods.

What are some benefits of using fresh herbs and spices? ›

What are some of the proven benefits of herbs and spices? Like all plants, herbs and spices are great sources of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are health-promoting chemicals that can help lower cholesterol, prevent cell damage, inhibit the growth of cancer cells, reduce inflammation and provide many other benefits.

What herbs are used the most? ›

Characteristics: Basil is the most commonly used herb in the United States. Peppery with a mild anise flavor, Italian basil is relatively sweeter than its purple counterpart. Sweet green basil is largely showcased in dishes from Italy (basil pesto) and Southeast Asia (green chicken curry), proving its versatility.

What are the best herbs to eat? ›

10 nutritious herbs you should add to your diet now
  • Oregano. ...
  • Basil. ...
  • Thyme. ...
  • Dill. ...
  • Chamomile. ...
  • Sage. ...
  • Cilantro. ...
  • Rosemary. A good source of calcium, iron and vitamin B6, rosemary contains compounds that offer both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
5 Oct 2020

Which herb should be removed before serving due to toughness? ›

A classic ingredient in French bouquet. Used in sauces, pickling, stews, and with meats and potatoes. Bay leaves are tough and should be removed before serving.

How do I get the most out of my herbs? ›

Follow these four tips to get the most flavor out of your dried herbs.
  1. Stick to woody dried herbs. Not all herbs are that great when dried. ...
  2. Replace dried herbs regularly. ...
  3. Add them at the right time. ...
  4. Rub dried herbs between your fingers before using.
21 Jan 2016

Are dried herbs as healthy as fresh? ›

Dried herbs are easy to keep on hand, and they are at least as beneficial as fresh, if not more so, because the drying process actually concentrates the polyphenols and flavors. When buying dried herbs, get them in small quantities that you can use up in less than a year, because their flavor fades with time.

What is a herb give 3 examples? ›

  • Plants with green and tender stems are called herbs.
  • They are usually short and have branches that are present uniformly throughout the stem.
  • For example: Coriander, Bay leaves, Basil, Tomato plant, etc.

What are herbs 5 examples? ›

Herbs are Wheat, Paddy (Rice), Cabbage, Tomato, Mustard, Radish, Sunflower, Carrot, Ginger, and Turnip.

Which plant is herb? ›

Examples of herbs : Wheat, Paddy (Rice), Cabbage,Tomato, Mustard, Radish, Sunflower, Carrot, Ginger and Turnip.

What herbs heal the body? ›

A Guide to Common Medicinal Herbs
  • Chamomile. (Flower) Considered by some to be a cure-all, chamomile is commonly used in the U.S. for anxiety and relaxation. ...
  • Echinacea. (Leaf, stalk, root) ...
  • Feverfew. (Leaf) ...
  • Garlic. (Cloves, root) ...
  • Ginger. (Root) ...
  • Gingko. (Leaf) ...
  • Ginseng. (Root) ...
  • Goldenseal. (Root, rhizome)

What herbs are good for humans? ›

10 Delicious Herbs and Spices With Powerful Health Benefits
  • Cinnamon Lowers Blood Sugar Levels and Has a Powerful Anti-Diabetic Effect. ...
  • Sage Can Improve Brain Function and Memory. ...
  • Peppermint Relieves IBS Pain and May Reduce Nausea. ...
  • Turmeric Contains Curcumin, a Substance With Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Effects.
3 Jun 2017

Are herbs as healthy as vegetables? ›

And, herbs can pack in just as much nutrition as vegetables! Just like green leafy vegetables, fresh herbs contain large amounts of vitamins A, C and K. Many herb plants also contain polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant compounds that have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities.

Is black pepper good for you? ›

Black pepper and its active compound piperine may have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Laboratory studies suggest that black pepper may improve cholesterol levels, blood sugar control, and brain and gut health.

Is it better to take herbs with or without food? ›

Nearly all herbal products are taken on an empty stomach, any time from 2 hours after eating until 30 minutes before eating. This allows better absorption of the extract since it does not have to compete with food in your gut.

Which herb is best for skin? ›

Turmeric to neem: Five natural herbs for glowing skin
  • 1/7. ​Natural products. Using natural products for skin care is the best way to enhance your naturally beautiful skin. ...
  • 2/7. ​Haldi. ...
  • 3/7. ​Chandan. ...
  • 4/7. ​Giloy. ...
  • 5/7. ​Amla. ...
  • 6/7. ​Neem. ...
  • 7/7. ​KumkumadiTailam.
6 Aug 2022

Do spices actually have health benefits? ›

Whether you use spices fresh or dried, you'll still get beneficial compounds. Experts point out that frying or grilling can decrease spices' antioxidants while microwave cooking, simmering or stewing foods with spices can actually heighten their antioxidant levels.

What are spices useful give three reasons to support your answer? ›

For starters, spices contribute rich flavor to food without adding any calories, fat, sugar or salt. In addition, research is showing that spices contribute to health just as much as fruits and vegetables, providing anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

Do Herbs and spices add nutritional value to foods? ›

Spices and herbs add delicious variety to the foods we eat. But spices and herbs are much more than flavor enhancers — they are nutritional powerhouses. After all, spices and herbs come from plants, which means they are sources of plant phytonutrients.

What herbs can you take everyday? ›

Healing Herbs and Spices to Use in Your Everyday Life
  • Cinnamon. Whether you're adding this spice to your grandma's famous oatmeal cookie recipe or using a cinnamon stick to stir your hot toddy, this spice is a favorite kitchen staple! ...
  • Turmeric. ...
  • Ginger. ...
  • Chamomile. ...
  • Cloves. ...
  • Valerian Root.
29 May 2019

What herbs are good for high blood pressure? ›

That said, there are several promising herbs and spices you can incorporate into your diet that may help lower your blood pressure. They include basil, parsley, celery seeds, Chinese cat's claw, Bacopa monnieri, garlic, thyme, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom, to name a few.

Which herbs do doctors use? ›

What Does an Herbalist Do? Herbalists attempt to find the root cause of illness. Practitioners will choose herbs based on the symptoms or ailments a patient describes during the consultation. They will also perform a clinical exam, inspecting certain areas of the body and create a personalized prescription.

What herbs do I need? ›

If you're new the gardening game, here are the 7 must-have herbs to grow at home.
  • Parsley. Parsley – a highly versatile herb and easy to grow. ...
  • Rosemary. If you're looking for a tough herb that requires little attention, it's rosemary. ...
  • Mint. ...
  • Basil. ...
  • Chives. ...
  • Thyme. ...
  • Lavender. ...
  • Oregano.
8 Feb 2018

Is banana a herb? ›

Bananas are both a fruit and not a fruit. While the banana plant is colloquially called a banana tree, it's actually an herb distantly related to ginger, since the plant has a succulent tree stem, instead of a wood one.

What is the best natural herb? ›

10 Best Herbs for Good Health to Support Your Well-Being
  • 1) Turmeric.
  • 2) Black Elderberry.
  • 3) Holy Basil.
  • 4) Ashwagandha.
  • 5) Oregano.
  • 6) Echinacea.
  • 7) Kava.
  • 9) Rhodiola.

What is the most used herb in cooking? ›

Parsley might very well be the most widely common herb for cooking. It's not surprising considered how easy it is to use it. It's quite mild, it doesn't overpower easily a dish, not as much as mint for example.

How do you not waste herbs? ›

Try to ensure that the leaves stay above the rim of the container. Loosely cover the herbs with a plastic bag and place them in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Be sure to change the water every few days (or when it starts to look cloudy), and remove any wilted or slimy leaves when you notice them.

Which herbs are stronger dried or fresh? ›

Dried herbs tend to have a deeper, spicier flavor than fresh herbs. For that reason, you can usually add less dry herbs than you would fresh herbs. That way, those strong flavors won't overpower your dish.

Do herbs lose nutrients when dried? ›

Nutrition. Green herbs lose some nutrients in the drying process. They can also lose nutrients during storage.

What is the best time to collect herbs? ›

Harvest early in the morning, after the dew dries, but before the heat of the day. Harvest herbs before flowering, otherwise, leaf production declines. Herb flowers have their most intense oil concentration and flavor when harvested after flower buds appear but before they open.

Where do you cut herbs? ›

Cut parsley and chive stems close to the base, about an inch from the soil. New growth should appear in about a week. Prune new growth from perennial herbs like rosemary, sage and tarragon every week during the summer. Pinch off the top 2 inches of all new shoots to encourage a fuller plant with strong root growth.

How do I use herbs? ›

Sprinkle chopped fresh herbs in or on top of omelets or frittatas. Before or after roasting vegetables or potatoes, toss them with rosemary, thyme, dill, or oregano. Rub meat or fish with fresh herbs before baking or grilling it. This Grilled Salmon has you top the dish with a fresh herb pesto right after grilling.

Which herbs are best fresh? ›

When it comes to herbs, certain herbs are always better fresh. Often, more delicate herbs lose a lot of their flavor when dried. When cooking with delicate herbs like parsley, tarragon, cilantro, chives, mint and dill, if possible, it is recommended to use them fresh.

Which dried herbs are best? ›

While fresh herbs are fantastic, dried herbs are easy to keep on hand, convenient to use, and their concentrated flavor is a surefire way to take a dish from OK to incredible.
...
Here, seven dried herbs you should never be without.
  1. Marjoram. ...
  2. Thyme. ...
  3. Rosemary. ...
  4. Oregano. ...
  5. Mint. ...
  6. Tarragon. ...
  7. Sage.
4 Sept 2022

Is dried mint leaves healthy? ›

Mint leaves contain vitamin E and D, which are essential for skin care. Mint dislimn dead skin cells and the salicylic acid in it causes the growth and generation of new skin cells. Mint has anti fungal and antibacterial properties and is excellent for relieving skin allergies.

What are 10 herbs for? ›

Ten Herbs is a line of natural supplements that help fight constipation. Its original effective formula dates back to 1975. These 100% natural origin products are made up of a mixture of powdered herbs pressed into tablets that help promote bowel function.

What are 3 common herbs? ›

11 Basic Herbs to Keep in Your Kitchen at All Times
  • Basil. Here's one big shot herb, which is one of the most important ones. ...
  • Rosemary. This Mediterranean native herb has the strongest aroma of all. ...
  • Oregano. ...
  • Marjoram. ...
  • Thyme. ...
  • Parsley. ...
  • Mint. ...
  • Dill.
26 Apr 2018

What is the most common herb used? ›

Characteristics: Basil is the most commonly used herb in the United States. Peppery with a mild anise flavor, Italian basil is relatively sweeter than its purple counterpart. Sweet green basil is largely showcased in dishes from Italy (basil pesto) and Southeast Asia (green chicken curry), proving its versatility.

What were herbs used for in the Bible? ›

They were used as medicine (caraway, cardamom, garlic, onions, sesame and thyme), cosmetic ointments (myrrh), aromatic oils (frankincense, myrrh), perfumes (spikenard), fumigation agents and religious rituals (hyssop), embalming (anise, cumin, marjoram, myrrh as well as spices like cinnamon, cloves and cassia), and ...

What is herb in the Bible? ›

Exodus 12:8) Bitter herbs are a collective term used for things like horehound, tansy, horseradish, endive, parsley and coriander seeds. Bitter herbs were mostly used for food in the Bible. In fact, the people of Israel were commanded to have bitter herbs with their Passover lamb.

What are the names of herbs in the Bible? ›

Only five species are mentioned directly as medicinal plants in the Bible: Fig (Ficus carica), Nard (Nardostachys jatamansi), Hyssop (Origanum syriacum), balm of Gilead (Commiphora gileadensis) and Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum).

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