As I’ve developed my culinary skills over the years, I’ve learned about the magic of incorporating spices into my foods. And I love these magic compounds for 3 main reasons:
- Spices impart amazing flavor to your foods! Being a self-described foodie, I love to try new foods, and it’s super important to me that my food tastes AMAZING. In addition, since I do my best to stay healthy and lean, it’s important that the food I do take in works for me in all ways – so not only do I want it to be good for me, but I also want it to satisfy as well. And eating food with great flavor can go a long way in helping you to feel satisfied with smaller portions, which in turn helps you achieve your weight loss goals!
- Spices have phenomenal nutritional benefits! These magic compounds can do wonders for your health. Benefits can range from lowering blood sugar, improving brain function and memory, reducing nausea, combating inflammation in your body, fighting infections and cancer, boosting your immunity, aiding in weight loss by suppressing appetite, preventing allergies and nasal congestion, improving your heart health, etc. The benefits are too many to list inclusively here, but as you can see, they can do wonders!
- Spices do all this without adding many calories to your diet. Most of the things used to impart flavor in mainstream cooking (especially in processed foods) – salt, fat, dairy – are loaded in calories and have extremely unhealthy side effects when consumed in typical quantities. Spices on the other hand have negligible calorie amounts and generally only health benefits, which make them the perfect way to up the flavor and nutrition without breaking your calorie bank. Yet another way they can lead to weight loss!
Since I’ve routinely started adding spices to my cooking, I’ve noticed great improvements in my health, hair quality, skin tone, ease of maintaining body weight, and satisfaction when eating. Therefore, I’ve decided to run a series of blog posts explaining some of the many health benefits of the spices I use routinely in my own kitchen. Hopefully it will inspire you to incorporate them into yours as well!
Using Spices for Health & Weight Loss: Basil
So what is basil exactly? Basil is actually a culinary herb from the same family as mint. Basil is native to tropical regions, but is cultivated and used routinely in cuisines worldwide. There are many varieties of basil, as well as related species and hybrids of basil which are available for use. Some of these include Sweet, Thai, Lemon, Greek, Cinnamon, Lettuce and Holy. Sweet basil is most common in the USA and likely the form you are most familiar with.
Basil can be found either fresh or dried. Fresh is far superior for cooking – especially if you are interested in the flavor of the herb (dried basil quickly loses its flavor). When using fresh basil, you’ll want to add it only at the last moment as cooking also quickly destroys its flavor. Fresh basil can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the fridge. Longer term storage can be done in the freezer, but you’ll need to quickly blanche the leaves first in boiling water.
Most people are familiar with basil via its starring role in making pesto! My family loves making our pesto at home from scratch. (Side note: I don’t always have fresh basil around, so instead I’ll use whatever greens I have on hand – kale, spinach, arugula, chard, etc. It’s one of Matthew’s favorite meals, and he never complains when he eats greens this way!)
And even though the flavor suffers when using dried basil, I do keep the dried form on hand. I’ll often add this in when cooking roasts, pasta sauces, stews, soups, or making broths. It’s a great way to sneak in a few extra nutrients without overwhelming a dish if you have taste buds that are new to spices.
And since the flavor of basil is reduced when dried, it’s a great spice to be adventurous with in the kitchen! As I’ve found with most spices I cook with, using basil in unconventional ways can lead to some amazing new flavor combinations and family favorite meals. It’s always fun to experiment in the kitchen, and using spices can be a great way to do that.
So other than flavor, what are some of the health benefits of using basil?
- Basil (both fresh and dried) contain beneficial vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A, Calcium, Iron and Manganese. The quantities present are small, but they are helpful in getting to your daily totals.
- Vitamin K however (which is important for bone health and wound healing) is found in significant quantities in basil. So if you are looking to increase your intake of Vitamin K, basil is a great way to do just that.
- The plant compounds in basil supply you with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory mediators.
- Basil has been used for centuries in traditional Eastern medicine.
- Scientific studies suggest that basil may reduce age-related memory loss, reduce depression due to stress, reduce stroke damage, improve blood sugar and blood pressure, prevent certain cancers, increase mental alertness, prohibit dental decay, and even repel insects!
As with anything in life, too much is not always a good thing. All the research I’ve done promotes using basil in food amounts as a great way to get your intake. However, because it is a significant source of Vitamin K and can thin your blood, people already taking blood thinners, who have upcoming surgery, or have a bleeding disorder need to be cautious in the amounts they consume.
So how do you use this magic spice? Here are a few of my favorites:
- Infused oils
- Sprinkle on top of appetizers such as bruschetta’s and soups.
- Use the dried form when cooking soups or stews for a longer period of time.
- It can be added to salads (leafy or pasta versions!).
- It makes a great topping on pizza or the dried form can be used to flavor any type of tomato sauce.
- Basil pares well with seafood or vegetable dishes.
- Fresh basil can also be used to top desserts (such as ice cream with fresh fruit) or to make drinks (cocktails included!).
It’s such an incredibly versatile spice! And with the great flavor and health benefits, there’s no reason not to start using it today. If you’d like to find the dried basil which I routinely use in my kitchen, you can follow this link to find it on Amazon.
And as Balancing Life as a Mom becomes more developed, I’ll be providing access to some of my favorite recipes which incorporate basil. These recipes and other kitchen hacks have helped me to shed over 30 lbs. and to stay healthy, so I’m excited to be able to share them with you!
In order to make sure you don’t miss out on these recipes when they are released, please make sure to enter your email address in the blue box below. Not only will it keep you informed of all the great things coming from the blog, but you’ll also get a free gift just for signing up!
All the best,
P.S. Do you have a favorite recipe which features basil? What’s your favorite way to use this spice? I’d love to hear from you and what it is!
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