The 4 Unknown Health Benefits of Basil

Basil is one of my favorite herbs! It is a staple in my kitchen and grows year ‘round in my household. Not only does it offer a fresh and unique taste to many dishes, but it also comes with many health benefits. A win-win for chefs and healthy eaters alike! Here are 4 unknown health benefits of basil that may just get you to start win incorporating this tasty herb into your cooking and diet.

Nutrient Powerhouse

Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese; a very good source of copper, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids such as beta-carotene), and vitamin C; and a good source of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids making it quite nutrient rich!

DNA Protection

Flavonoids found in basil provide protection at the cellular level. Orientin and vicenin are two flavonoids that protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage.

Anti-Bacterial Properties

Basil has been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth. These anti-bacterial properties are associated with its volatile oils, which have been shown to protect against a wide variety of bacteria.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Basil's volatile oils have been shown in studies to have anti-inflammatory properties by blocking the activity of an enzyme in the body called cyclooxygenase (COX). Many over the counter pain relieving medicines work in the same manner as COX. Therefore, basil can be an important food for individuals with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.

Now you know how healthy basil is, here are a few tips on how to use it.

How To Use Basil

Basil is easy to use and because of its versatility, can be added to many different types of dishes, as well as waters and even teas. Here are a few easy and simple ways to get more basil in your diet:

  • Dried basil still has many of the health benefits listed, but your best bet is fresh. Try growing in a garden or even in a pot year ‘round because it is very easy to grow.
  • Because of its antibacterial properties, it’s always a good idea to add to your salad greens. Simply take a few leaves, chop them up and add them to a salad.
  • Combine fresh chopped basil with garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese to make fresh, delicious pesto. Pesto can top a variety of dishes including pasta, fish, vegetables and bruschetta, just to name a few. It also freezes well so you can keep it all year long.
  • One of my favorite ways to eat basil is by adding it to sliced vine-ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella for a Caprese salad or quick, last minute appetizer.
  • Add basil to stir-fries and curries, especially those that include eggplant, cabbage, chili peppers, tofu and cashews.
  • Make refreshing basil water by adding some leaves to a pitcher of water and letting sit for a while.
  • You can even enjoy a warm cup of basil tea by steeping chopped basil leaves in boiling water for a few minutes.
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