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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nutritional Tidbits: A Few Words on Herbs

A Few Words on Herbs: Rosemary, Garlic, and Tumeric
by Jorge Lopez
Jorge Lopez cooking- more info on Jorge down below.
Sometimes I find that the ordinary and everyday becomes dull and unexciting. Unlike a child’s world view of adventure and discovery, as I get older I have found ways to light my passion for the simple. I find often that to ignite the beauty in the everyday I have to set out and rediscover! For example every herb, flower, fruit, vegetable and tuber has more than one story. Cooking with herbs for flavor and aroma to create the perfect dish is one story. How those wonderful herbs help us to heal can be another. Rosemary, Garlic, and curcuma (Tumeric), are among the many herbs used every day to enhance flavor. Lets look at how they benefit our health.

One the most pleasantly pungent and bitter herbs I often use is rosemary. Rosemary is one of those herbs you don’t want to overdo when cooking because of its incredible strong taste. Rosemary is known to be an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiseptic just to name a few. However rosemary is better known for its effect on blood vessels. Carnosic Acid is phytochemical that helps to dilate blood vessels and its antioxidant activity also helps to protect against free radicals. Although rosemary greatly benefits the cardiovascular system it has a great affinity for the brain increasing blood flow and antioxidant activity. Brain power!!

Oh Garlic! Garlic is by far my favorite herb. I would almost put it on icecream. Aside from its incredible taste garlic is another beneficial herb for health. Garlic helps to reduce cholesterol; it’s also anti-clotting, antimicrobial, antifungal and atiprotozoal. From mouth to exit garlic shifts the natural bacterial flora to a more beneficial variety (mostly Lactobacillus and other bifidobacterium). In addition garlic contains sulfoxide, which, in the body, is converted to n-acetylcysteine (NAC). NAC helps with detoxification, acts as antioxidant and helps the gut maintain a healthy mucosa. The other major phytochemical is Allicin. Allicin is a well studied molecule that comes in many varieties some of which help with its antimicrobial and anti-clotting components.

Tumeric is a wonderful herb that Naturopaths sometimes use to reduce or in some cases reverse dementia and alzheimer’s. Like most herbs turmeric has more than one benefit. Other properties include; anticancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-clotting, hepatoprtective (protects the liver) and much more. I love to sneak this herb in my dishes as often as possible. If added in low amount it doesn’t really alter the taste of your dish at all. (I will mention that it can change the color, but what’s a little color change with so many benefits.) Turmeric can aggravate the stomach if you have an ulcer, so pay attention to your body and if it bothers you don’t use it.

These are only a few of the many herbs that we use daily and we can see how a few herbs benefit our health greatly. Isn’t it exciting to talk about herbs and rediscover their inner wisdom? No, well maybe it’s just me. Ha! Not to mention herbs are  easy to grow, and nothing beats using fresh herbs out of your own food garden.

Jorge and I attended Warren Wilson College together, where he studied biology with a focus on plants.  Prior to  "Wilson," he earned his AA at the University of Florida, served for four years in the US Marine Corps.  He's worked as an EMT for three years in New York City and for three years as an ER tech.  He also worked for a year in a health food store. Currently, Jorge's attending the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ.  A couple months back Jorge and I communicated via facebook about the possibility that he could guest-post on my blog to provide nutritional tidbits that link food gardening with healthy eating and health, in general. This is the second of such posts. (The first is here.)  Thanks Jorge.

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