HERBS & SPICES ARE AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE MEDITERRANEAN CUISINE, AND AS SUCH, THEY COME WITH THEIR OWN SPECIAL HEALTH BENEFITS
Whoever said that eating healthy means you have to sacrifice the flavor, the menu of a Mediterranean restaurant will prove them wrong! Herbs and spices have fairly won their position at the Mediterranean Pyramid, where each food is packed in nutrients, taking into consideration their natural antioxidants and polyphenols among others, with the latter helping in regulating blood pressure levels.
Herbs and spices are the medicine of the kitchen; the scientific evidence behind Mediterranean eatable plants clearly demonstrates their medicinal properties. As Degner SC (2009) mentions, “Mediterranean plants…can exert anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic or anti-diabetic activities.” This explains their position in the food pyramid of the #1 Best Overall Diet.
Another reason that herbs and spices promote healthy dietary habits is found in the usage of salt. Added salt can be avoided with the right seasoning of dishes with herbs and spices, as they enrich the flavor and offer distinct aromas. Eating too much salt may cause a wide range of health problems, but there are never too many herbs and spices!
Finally, herbs and spices hold each region’s cooking identity. For example, dill is a primary ingredient in Greek cuisine whereas basil is in Italian dishes. However, this doesn’t mean that there are no Italian dishes using dill, as dill falls under the Mediterranean category of herbs, similar to basil. Now, let’s have a look at the top 10 herbs and spices.
Interested in Mediterranean herbs which fight inflammation? Read our blogpost here.
Breath freshener and digestion regulator, parsley is used in many signature dishes of Italian and Greek cuisine. It’s the perfect plant to grow in your garden, as it should be consumed fresh to take advantage of its great taste and vitamins C and A.
With Greek origins and bright orange-yellow colour, saffron tends to be more expensive than other herbs, and thus it is associated with fancy dishes. Be careful when using it, as too much saffron will negatively change the food’s taste.
Considered to have antibacterial properties, thyme it’s a great choice for soups and meat. You can consume it either fresh or dried, however, its dried version ties the elements of the dish in a better manner. It’s correlated with lowering blood pressure.
Picture this – a slice of tomato topped with mozzarella cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper, and finally fresh basil. The Italian epitome! You can use fresh basil leaves onto pizza, blend it and add it into a soup or sauce, chop it and mix with salad leaves.
Mainly consumed dried, rosemary and goes along with baked potatoes. It boosted the immune system and aids in blood circulation. In addition, Ancients Greeks believed that rosemary helped with memory performance.
Associated with Greek and Italian cuisine, oregano comes in varieties, as for example Marjoram and Syrian oregano. It’s a great addition to Greek salad, any type of pizza, and olive-oil based dishes.
With a strong aroma and taste, sage leaves should be added to the cooking procedure from the start in order to avoid leaving a bitter taste at the end. Greeks add sage leaves to lentil soup and Italians into tomato sauces.
Who can pronounce it correctly? Za’atar is a spice mix with Middle Eastern origins, usually containing oregano, basil, thyme, and other Mediterranean herbs. You can add it into olive oil as a dip or as a last-minute addition to feta cheese.
Coming from the same plant as coriander, cilantro is loaded with vitamins A, C, and K. It has a spicy flavor and you can use it to make pesto, pasta, or even a mojito.
With a high nutritional value, fennel contains potassium, calcium and vitamin C among others. You can add it to risotto, pasta, or in a sauce.