Trends & Facts : How to boost health with herbs

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (September 2015).  Eve Kalinik* extols the benefits of herbs on our wellbeing.

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Whether fragrant, grassy or aromatic in nature, herbs can transform a simple dish into something truly magnificent. But beyond their great and versatile taste, it’s the health benefits of herbs that pack the most surprising punch of all. Sadly, with the popularity of fast and convenience foods, laden with their sugar, salt and fake flavourings, we have somewhat lost our love of these very special plants. It’s about time we rediscovered just how incredibly nutritious and delicious they can be.

Let’s start back in the days before modern medicine, when the herbs that you might typically throw into your favourite supper were ubiquitously used to cure common ailments. Herbs were used in many ways – to produce teas, tinctures, tonics, rubs, pastes and poultices – and herbalists and apothecaries would prescribe treatments direct from the most bountiful first aid kit of all – Mother Nature.

Today, many of our most common drugs are in part based on the same chemical components of these readily available plants. Each of these beautiful herbs contains unique molecules – and this is what lends them their distinctive health-giving properties. Obviously, the more you can get the fresh herbs into your diet the better, but that doesn’t mean the dried versions won’t also have many fantastic benefits. All herbs – dried or fresh – contain antioxidant benefits that help to counterbalance the effects of environmental damage to our bodies, as well as being antimicrobial. You could almost think of them as your daily dose of medicine, just in the purest and most natural form.

Here are some people who are giving herbs the happening factor:

Michael Isted – herbal medicine practitioner and founder of the Herball*, his clever infusions, aromatic waters, bitters and amazing cocktail recipes will have you feeling inspired.

Olia Hercules* – food writer, stylist and chef, she creates beautifully designed and mouth-watering recipes. Her book, Mamushka (Mitchell Beazley), is brimming with herbs, but Eve particularly loves the fermented herbs seasoning; it’s mind-blowingly good!

Juice Tonic* – in the heart of London’s Soho, Juice Tonic has reinvented health drinks with a menu of juices, smoothies, tonics and pharmacy teas that blend together herbs from far and wide.

Herbs to boost health and awaken taste buds
Thyme : It lifts a classic risotto, and has been associated with supporting respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and congestion.
– Rosemary : Traditionally served with lamb, rosemary is renowned for its rheumatoid and cardiovascular benefits.
– Oregano : The base of all good Italian sauces, it has potent antimicrobial properties.
– Sage : Simply shredded through green beans, pine nuts and drizzled with olive oil, it makes for a delicious accompaniment. Sage has been revered for its support of menopausal symptoms.
– Garlic : This is the ultimate antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-parasitic herb (yes, it is a herb). Your gut will be thanking you for having more of this pungent wonder in your diet.

* Websites worth visiting:-
evekalink.com; theherball.co.uk; oliahercules.com; juicetonic.com

Further reading:

Trends & Facts : Crazy for Coconut

A health trend fact article taken from Psychologies Magazine (April 2015).
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The Hype
Enticed by the promise that coconut oil can boost body and brain wellbeing, we’ve bestowed it with a health halo that has us scooping it into smoothies and spreading it on our toast. Ad the craze also goes beyond the kitchen. Aside from it’s moisturising properties, we’re also swishing coconut oil around our mouths in honour of the Ayurvedic ‘oil pulling’ method, which is said to detox the body and whiten teeth. The coconut water market alone is now worth £22 million in the UK. (according to Nielsen Statistics cited by PepsiCo).

Food forecasters predict that coconut sugar will take centre stage in the future, as it has a lower glycaemic index than its refined white counterpart. Yet with an overabundance of discombobulated information, separating facts from fad can prove somewhat challenging.

The Facts
* Over 200 students highlight coconut oil’s ability to settle malabsorption syndrome (a disorder affecting nutrient absorption), hinder tumour growth, fight viruses and protect cortical neurons in mice, which may have implications for Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

* It is high in healthy saturated fat which binds unhealthy saturated fat (LDL or low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol) and carries it away from the arteries to the liver, where it’s broken down and passed from the body. This lowers cholesterol, which is thought to protect against stroke and heart disease.

* It has a high smoking point for cooking, so it’s less likely to denature and form dangerous free radicals (linked to cancer) in the body.

* Coconut milk is high in medium chain fatty acids and lauric acid, which the body converts to help it fight infection.

The Verdict
1. Coconut oil is a great oil to cook with and consume regularly. But cooking with butter, ghee or avocado oil is fine, too.

2. Coconut water, high in potassium, has been touted as more hydrating than water – not true. But it is a better option post-workout, as it helps replace lost nutrients.

3. Coconut flour is packed with fibre and protein, so it’s a good alternative if you have glucose allergies. However, it must be blended with other flours (try rye or rice flour) to get the desired effect for baking.

4. Coconut butter is a nutritious spread that contains all the benefits of the oil and is also packed with fibre.

5. Coconut syrup (try Bali Nutra Coconut Syrup) is a good sweetener, it contains mineral nutrients and is 70-79 per cent sucrose, so it’s low in harmful fructose.

6. While the coconut has a multitude of benefits, it’s not a magic ingredient. It’s important to incorporate the right remedies to suit your lifestyle so they work in symmetry for greater health and vitality.

See this book for other Ayurvedic recipes …