What the Herb? | Why Herbs are Getting So Much Attention Right Now As Nutrition Powerhouses

In recent years, there’s been a significant shift towards natural and holistic approaches to health and wellness. Among the myriad options for enhancing dietary nutrition, herbs have emerged as unsung heroes. Let’s dive into why herbs are gaining popularity as nutrition powerhouses and how they really contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

One of our favorite phrases these days is “What the herb?” This expression encapsulates the growing curiosity and appreciation for herbs in culinary arts, health, and wellness. This phrase playfully signals a deep dive into the world of herbs, exploring their varieties, benefits, and the numerous ways they can be incorporated into our daily lives.

Culinary Exploration

In the culinary world, “What the Herb” could be a call to embark on an exciting adventure of exploring the vast and diverse universe of herbs. Beyond common varieties like basil, parsley, and thyme, there’s a whole world of lesser-known herbs to discover, such as lovage, sorrel, and chervil. Each herb brings its unique flavor profile and can transform a simple dish into something extraordinary. It’s an invitation for chefs and home cooks alike to experiment with herb combinations, understand their uses in different cuisines, and learn techniques to maximize their flavor in dishes.

Ina Garten is a household name here at Gardenuity. We admire the way she is dedicated to growing her own herbs for her recipes! Among her favorites are parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives, lavender, oregano, basil, and mint. (Take a look at her Pork Souvlaki with Radish Tzatziki to see how she expertly puts rosemary and mint to the test.)

Health + Wellness

From a health perspective, “What the Herb” suggests delving into the nutritional and medicinal properties of herbs. Many herbs are not just culinary treasures but also have potent health benefits. For instance, mint can aid digestion, rosemary may improve concentration and memory, and turmeric is celebrated for its anti-inflammatory properties. Understanding these benefits encourages a more intentional use of herbs, not just for their flavor but also for their potential to support overall well-being.

Gardening + Sustainability

On the sustainability front, and this being the month we celebrate Earth Day, the phrase can signify an exploration into herb gardening wherever you live, work, and play. Whether it’s a Kitchen Garden on your patio, a Patio Herb Garden on your porch, or a Caprese Garden full of fresh basil on your balcony, cultivating herbs can be your simple way to connect with nature, reduce your carbon footprint, and ensure a fresh, organic supply of fresh herbs to harvest. It’s about appreciating the sustainability aspect of using what you grow, minimizing waste, and understanding the environmental impact of food choices.

Cultural Significance

Lastly, “What the Herb” could be an exploration of the cultural significance of herbs across the world. Herbs play a crucial role in many cultures, not just in cuisine but also in traditional medicine, ceremonies, and everyday life. This exploration can lead to a greater appreciation of how herbs are intertwined with cultural identities and traditions, and how they have been used throughout history for various purposes beyond the kitchen.

Herbs are powerhouses in the kitchen, the bar, and the garden. These nutritional goldmines are easy to grow and bring seasons to life. For instance, parsley (often relegated to the side of the plate as a garnish) is packed with vitamins A, C, and K, essential for eye health, immune function, and blood clotting, respectively. With its distinct aroma, Basil provides a good source of magnesium, enhancing heart health by improving blood flow. Meanwhile, Thyme is rich in vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A, both crucial for immune health. The dense nutritional profile of these and other herbs makes them invaluable for enhancing diet quality.

For centuries, herbs have been revered in traditional medicine practices worldwide for their healing properties. In Ayurveda, herbs like turmeric and ginger are staples for their anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits. Traditional Chinese Medicine utilizes herbs such as ginseng and goji berries to balance energy (Qi) and enhance vitality. In modern diets, these herbs have transitioned from medicinal to everyday ingredients, reflecting a growing appreciation for their health benefits beyond their culinary uses. One of our favorite books for anyone looking to understand herbal remedies is The Homegrown Herbal Apothecary by Devon Young.  

Scientific Evidence Supporting Health Benefits

Recent studies have bolstered the acclaim for herbs, providing scientific backing for their health benefits. Research has shown that the antioxidants in herbs, such as rosmarinic acid in rosemary and eugenol in cloves, have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like arthritis and heart disease. Moreover, herbs like cilantro have been found to have detoxifying properties, helping remove heavy metals from the body. These findings support the integration of herbs into daily diets for their protective health benefits.

Incorporating Herbs into Daily Diet

Incorporating herbs into your daily diet can be simple, especially when you go out to your patio and harvest them yourself. Fresh herbs add seasonal flavor to your favorite salads, soups, sandwiches, and pasta for a nutritional boost. Herbs are also a tasty addition to your water! Herbal-infused water is a delicious way to increase your daily water intake.

Sustainability + Patio Herb Gardening

The sustainability aspect of herbs is also noteworthy. Many people are now turning to home herb gardening, which not only ensures a fresh supply of these nutrition powerhouses but also contributes to reducing food miles and plastic packaging. Growing herbs at home can be a step towards more sustainable living practices, connecting individuals with the process of growing their food and appreciating the value of nature’s offerings.

The rising attention towards herbs as nutrition powerhouses is well-deserved. With their dense nutritional profiles, myriad health benefits, and versatility in cooking, herbs are a simple yet effective way to enhance dietary nutrition and overall health. Herb gardens are a wonderful way to get your hands a little dirty and dig into gardening for the first time or as a master gardener.