Herbs contain nutrients that improve health in unique ways. Some provide the anti-inflammatory benefits of aspirin while others have the power to fight unhealthy bacteria. Start adding these herbs to your recipes today!
When you take a dose of ibuprofen or aspirin, these medicines block an enzyme to reduce inflammation. Research shows that the oils in basil have the ability to block these same enzymes. In addition to the fresh, crisp flavor it adds to food, basil provides vitamin K, vitamin A, iron, and calcium.
Uses:Top pizza with fresh basil leaves just before baking, add them to sandwiches, or thinly slice the leaves and sprinkle them over fresh tomato slices with salt and pepper.
Cilantro is a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine, and its bright green leaves and seeds are anti-bacterial. Research suggests that cilantro contains a compound that kills salmonella, a major cause of foodborne illness.
Uses:Add fresh cilantro leaves to salsa, tacos, dips, salads, and noodles.
With its pungent flavor, it is no surprise that chives come from the same group of allium vegetables and herbs as onions and garlic. They contain compounds that act as antioxidants to reduce the risk for cancer.
Uses:Add chopped chives to scrambled egg whites, pasta salads, potato salads, or to Greek yogurt for vegetable dip.
Dill has anti-bacterial properties similar to those associated with garlic. It can also help protect against free radicals and the carcinogens found in grill smoke. This makes dill an ideal herb to use with any food you plan to grill.
Uses:Sprinkle chopped dill over fish, beef, or sautéed vegetables. It can be used in omelets, or stirred into cucumber salad and tuna salad.
Mint is best known for its ability to sooth the digestive system making it helpful for gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome. It also provides manganese, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
Uses:Add chopped mint to fruit salad, or drop a few leaves into your favorite berry smoothies. It also makes a good seasoning for beef and lamb.
Research shows that oregano has the highest antioxidant content of herbs, and it also surpasses many fruits and vegetables. One analysis showed it contains 4 times the amount of antioxidants found in blueberries.
Uses:Add oregano to homemade marinara sauce or tomato soup. Sprinkle minced leaves over pizza, and simmer bundles of oregano stems in soups and stews.
Often a garnish, nutritious parsley should be added to your food, not your plate. Parsley provides vitamin A, vitamin C, and folic acid. Similar to dill, parsley’s antioxidant activity may fight against carcinogens, such as those in grill smoke.
Uses:Stir chopped parsley into pasta salads, cold bean salads, or tuna salad. Mix it into ground beef before making hamburgers, or sprinkle it on top of soups and stews before serving.
Not far behind oregano, rosemary is also part of a group of herbs with the highest amount of antioxidant activity. Several studies show that it can fight the pathogens that cause foodborne illness, such as Listeria.
Uses:Add chopped rosemary leaves to marinades for grilled meats and vegetables, or sprinkle some on vegetables before roasting. Simmer stems of rosemary leaves in soups and stews.
The oils in sage have been found to reduce inflammation, which is common in those with rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. It is also rich in vitamin K, an important vitamin for bone health.
Uses:Add finely chopped sage to chicken salad, or to tomato sauce. Add a few sage leaves to fish and vegetable packets before grilling.
Along with being rich in antioxidants that protect cell membranes, thyme is also anti-microbial. Its oils protect against microbes on fresh foods, such as lettuce, that could cause illness. Thyme is also rich in iron, manganese, and vitamin K.
Uses:Add thyme leaves to salad dressings, or marinades. It is also delicious in pasta sauces, roasted vegetables, and beans.
Chronic dieting can result in a numbing of hunger signals and an inability to recognize fullness. If you don't respond to hunger knocking on that internal door, eventually it will stop knocking. Eating then occurs in response to stimuli other than true hunger, and that's when the troubles begin – oftentimes resulting in emotional eating and rebound binges.
With a little attention to the task, you can re-train yourself to recognize and respond appropriately to hunger and fullness signals. Hunger should be embraced and treated as a valued communication with your body – not something to be feared. Listening to your body and taking the time to care for its needs are critical steps in learning to love and care for yourself.
The first step in recognizing hunger signals and eating intuitively is to be present in the moment. This is difficult to do in our current society where we are constantly looking to the next task even before finishing the prior one. Taking the time to slow down will provide you with a multitude of health benefits. Realize that it is normal for hunger to occur 3 to 5 hours after eating. Start familiarizing yourself with the different levels of hunger and the individual signals that your body relays to you at various stages.
Initiate this process by listening. Check in with your body throughout the day and rate your hunger. A common way to rate hunger is on a scale of 1-to-10 with 1 equivalent to a state of starving and 10 being a state of extreme fullness.
Ideally, you want to initiate a meal when you are in a state of hunger but not completely famished (a scale rating of about 3), and finish a meal when you are in a state of fullness but not completely stuffed (a scale rating of approximately 6).
0 = Starving, famished, headache
3 = Need to eat something, hunger pangs
5 = Comfortable, lightness about you
6 = Somewhat full, satisfied and content
8 = Overfull, need to loosen clothing, must sit for awhile
10 = Nauseated, vow to never eat this much again
It takes a while for the signal of stomach fullness to reach the satiety centers in the brain so it is a good idea to stop eating before you feel full. In other words, if you stop eating at a rating of about 6, you will ultimately end up at a fullness rating of about 7 shortly following the meal.
It may be helpful, to associate numbers on the rating scale with situations in the past. For instance, if you have ever fasted for a religious occasion, try to remember how it felt to be truly hungry and correlate that empty, rumbling feeling in your stomach with a rating of 1.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, recall a time when you've really overeaten, maybe a Thanksgiving dinner, and correlate a number 10 with the feelings of overeating. Likewise, remember a time when you thoroughly enjoyed a fantastic meal and were able to stop eating when you had met your hunger needs. Remember how comfortable and satisfied you felt and mesh this memory with a number 6 on the scale.
Although individual differences exist, the list below can provide some common hunger symptoms:
Feeling of emptiness in stomach
Gurgling, rumbling or growling in stomach
Dizziness, faintness or light-headedness
Irritability, easily agitated
Lack of concentration
After a while you will be able to identify patterns in your hunger symptoms and correlate them with how often and how much you've eaten at your last meal. It may take some time for you to get comfortable with identifying normal levels of hunger and to recognize the pattern of eating that is best suited to you individually. Be patient with yourself and your body. Take the time to listen and care for yourself, and to get back in tune with your body and hunger.
Nutritious foods improve health and promote weight loss, but the benefits don’t stop there. Here are 9 hidden perks of healthy eating that don't always get the attention they deserve.
When it comes to your smile, the benefit of healthy food goes beyond strengthening teeth. Yogurt contains microorganisms that may help fight the bad bacteria that cause bad breath, plaque, and gum disease. High-fiber fruits and vegetables that require lots of chewing stimulate saliva with antimicrobials to also reduce bacteria in the mouth. Harvard researchers have also found that fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce rates of gum disease due to reduced inflammation.
Foods with high water content, such as fruits and vegetables, moisturize the skin and keep you hydrated. They also contain antioxidants to protect against cell damage for younger-looking skin. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, such as salmon, nourish the skin and may help reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Omega-3 fatty acids protect against spikes in stress hormones, such as cortisol. Vitamin C has been shown to reduce these hormones while protecting the immune system. Magnesium, found in nuts and spinach, helps to keep stress at manageable levels. Black tea has been shown to reduce cortisol after stressful events making it easier for you to recover.
Sodium, carbonation, constipation, and excess air (due to eating too fast) can all lead to a bloated belly. A healthy diet that limits sodium and high-sugar carbonated drinks promotes a flatter stomach. High-fiber foods (such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) reduce constipation. Slower eating not only makes you more mindful of what you are putting into your mouth, but it also reduces the excess air you swallow that leads to bloating.
Carbohydrate-rich foods are associated with increased serotonin, which is a brain chemical linked to improved mood. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, are healthier choices because they will also stabilize blood sugar levels. Healthy foods that contain tryptophan (such as turkey, yogurt, and fish) are associated with improved mood because the body converts tryptophan in to serotonin.
Spikes and rapid drops in blood sugar can result in unhealthy food cravings. Complex carbohydrates and lean proteins help to stabilize blood sugar to prevent these rapid changes. As your diet becomes balanced with nutritious foods, you will find that intense cravings for unhealthy food lessen over time.
Healthy eating requires education. You learn what foods are nutritious, how to select the best quality product, and how to prepare it. As you learn more about healthy eating and incorporate new foods into your diet, your knowledge will increase. Over time, you will be more prepared to make informed nutrition decisions.
One of the top tips for encouraging children to eat healthy foods is to offer a variety. This same method works for adults. Don’t limit yourself to two vegetables and then give up when you decide you don’t like them. Try new ingredients regularly and explore ethnic cuisines. The more you experiment with healthy eating, the greater your willingness to try new things.
Healthy foods boost your brain power, and this means increased productivity at the office. Leafy greens contain antioxidants to protect brain cells from the damage causing cognitive decline. Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with improved concentration and mental alertness. The better your focus and attitude, the more effective you will be at work.
Swimming is a great low impact cardiovascular exercise. If you swim and feel an increase in hunger a few hours after your workout, you are not alone. Research shows that swimming can increase appetite.
While the exact reason that swimming causes hunger isn’t clear, some research suggests it is due to body temperature. The cool water of the pool can decrease body temperature and constrict blood vessels in the skin, which can influence the action of hormones that control appetite.
It’s important to pay attention to your hunger and eating patterns to ensure that swimming doesn’t cause you to increase your food intake. There are a few things you can do to control your appetite and stay on track to reach your fitness goals.
Keep track of your hunger. Make notes when you feel hungry throughout the day and compare your non-swimming days to the days you workout in the pool. This will help you identify how swimming is influencing your appetite.
Exercise in warmer water. One study found that people who exercised in cold water consumed 44% more calories afterwards than those who swam in warm water.
Warm up after your workout. Raising your body temperature after swimming may help decrease the effects of cold water on your appetite. Put on warm clothes, take a short walk, or plan to do your strength training or more cardio following your time in the pool.
Plan a healthy snack. Help avoid unexpected hunger and plan to have a healthy snack about 30 minutes after your workout. Eat a balance of carbohydrates and protein such as bananas with peanut butter, yogurt with fresh fruit or a low-sugar energy bar.
Eat more often. On the days you swim, spread out your meals and snacks so that you are refueling the body every few hours.
Stay hydrated. When you stay cool in the water during a workout, it is easy to overlook your hydration needs. Later, when thirst kicks in, it’s possible to mistake it for hunger. Continue to drink fluids at regular intervals before, during and after your workout.
You can fill up on sweet summer melon without blowing your calorie budget for the day. One cup of diced honeydew melon contains 61 calories, a cup of cantaloupe cubes has 54 calories, and diced watermelon has only 45 calories per cup. Melon is also nutrient-dense. While low in calories, it provides valuable fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Satisfies a sweet tooth
The sweetness of ripened melon can help satisfy your sweet tooth with natural sugars. While you will avoid the added sugars and empty calories of a typical dessert, the natural sugars can still cause a spike in blood sugar. Pair your melon with protein and fiber to control hunger.
Full of phytonutrients
The orange flesh of the cantaloupe provides antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients including beta-carotene and lutein. Honeydew melon is full of the antioxidant vitamin C. The vitamin C in melons is especially valuable because the fruit is often eaten fresh, so the nutrient is not destroyed during cooking. Watermelon is high in the cancer-fighting phytonutrient lycopene. Early research also suggests that an amino acid in watermelons, called citrulline, may have a positive impact on cardiovascular health.
High in water content
Water accounts for over 90 percent of a watermelon’s mass, so it can help keep you hydrated. The high water content also keeps you feeling full and satisfied.