Basil is a versatile herb and very nutritious. Every summer I grow basil in the garden. It is so satisfying to walk outside and simply snip a few leaves to use immediately in a recipe. Last year, I had so much basil, I dried it, put it in the food processor and made my own dried basil to enjoy all year round.
Usually, basil is not the focus of a recipe, it is an afterthought. Later in this post, I share a variety of recipes where basil is the main attraction. But first, here are the health benefits of basil.
GOOD FOR DIGESTION AND PROMOTES A HEALTHY GUT
Our digestive health is key to overall good health. The gut processes our food so we can absorb nutrients and it is where 70% of our immune system lives. If our gut is unhealthy, so is the rest of our body.
Basil contains eugenol in the leaves which ensures anti-inflammatory action in the digestive tract. Basil helps balance acid within the body and restores the body's proper pH level. Basil also feeds healthy bacteria within the gut microflora. (Source: Food.NDTV) Having enough healthy bacteria in our gut is necessary for our body to fight pathogens and illness.
How do you know if your gut is healthy? Does any of this sound like you? 👍Diarrhea and/or constipation, and intestinal discomfort 👍Inflammation 👍Congestion, coughing, wheezing 👍Brain fog, difficulty recalling words, short term memory issues 👍Headaches and migraines 👍Hives, flushing, and itchy skin 👍Fatigue and malaise 👍Sensitivity to fragrances and chemicals
If you answered yes to even just one of the above, your gut is unhealthy. Eating foods like basil can help restore the health of your gut. Not sure where to start? I am here to help!
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FIGHTS FREE RADICALS
Basil is a very good source of Vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. Antioxidants are molecules that boost the immune system. They do so by protecting cells from harmful molecules called free radicals. When free radicals accumulate, they can promote a state known as oxidative stress, which has been linked to many chronic diseases.
Studies show that consuming more vitamin C can increase your blood antioxidant levels by up to 30%. This helps the body’s natural defenses fight inflammation. (Source: Healthline) Vitamin C cannot be produced in our body so we have to get it from our food.
The powerful essential oils found in basil, including eugenol, citronellol and linalool, help lower inflammation through their enzyme inhibiting properties. This may help lower risk of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions. (Source: Food.NDTV) While some inflammation in the body is normal and natural, when inflammation becomes chronic, illness and disease occur.
SUPPORTS HEALTHY BONES
Basil is an excellent source of Vitamin K1 and a very good source calcium. We don't hear a lot about vitamin K1. Did you know Vitamin K1 makes it easier for our bones to retain calcium? Researchers are also looking into Vitamin K1's protective properties which may prevent the break down of our bones.
Isn't it interesting that not only does basil contain Vitamin K but calcium as well? Calcium is the cornerstone of bone health and Vitamin K helps the bones retain calcium. It is pretty amazing how food, in this case an herb, contains vitamins and minerals that work together to maintain our good health.
Before we get to the recipes, let me share with you the best way to cut basil for use in recipes. The process is called chiffonade, which is a fancy way to say cut the basil into small, long pieces.
First, wash the basil leaves in warm water. Gather 4-5 and layer them on top of each other. Next, roll them tightly. On a cutting board, start to cut the basil into small pieces. What you will have is a chiffonade! You can use the basil pieces as is. When cut this way basil is great to toss into salads, soups or smoothies. You can continue to cut the basil into smaller pieces if needed. It will look like the below when you are finished.
If you are overrun with basil in the garden, you can also dry it in the oven on a very low temperature and then process it in a food processor to make your own dried basil. Click here to see how. Basil can also be frozen for use at a later time. That's right, frozen! A Oregon Cottage has a post on 6 ways to freeze basil. This process is great for using basil later in stir-fry recipes, soups and sauces. Click here to see how.
Finally, if you are following a Low FODMAP lifestyle or gluten-free, make sure to substitute where necessary in the below recipes. Our bodies are unique and can react to specific foods. We never want to eat something that is going to cause our bodies to react negatively. No matter how healthy it is!
Lemon Basil Chicken from Well Plated. This recipe is fast, ready in just 20 minutes. Plus, it uses fresh and light flavors which are perfect for when the weather gets hot. The recipe calls for serving the chicken over brown rice but you could also use quinoa or couscous depending on your lifestyle needs. Click here for the recipe.
Tomato Basil Pasta from Wife Mama Foodie. When the basil is overflowing in the garden, the tomatoes are coming in as well. So this recipe can take advantage of garden crops but it is just as easily made year-round since you can buy fresh basil and tomatoes anytime you want. Total time from prep to dinner plate is 30 minutes. Click here for the recipe.
Baked Fish with Tomato Basil Sauce from The Seasoned Mom. This recipe calls for a flaky white fish such as cod or halibut. It uses canned tomatoes and fresh basil for the sauce. The recipe only take 25 minutes and is a healthy, light dish that could be served with pasta or rice and a steamed vegetable, like broccoli. Click here for the recipe.
Chard Corn Salad with Basil and Tomatoes from Bon Appetit. This colorful salad is perfect for a light lunch. If following a low FODMAP lifestyle, this is a great side dish for dinner. Splashed with lime juice, it is very light and flavorful. Full of nutrients and filling enough for a light dinner. Click here for the recipe.
Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies from A Beautiful Plate. Yes, basil can be in desserts. In fact, I love cookies. They have to be my favorite dessert. I like that I can have one and feel satisfied. While the recipe doesn't call for organic ingredients, you can easily substitute organic flour, sugar and butter. Click here for the recipe.
I hope you enjoyed learning more about the health benefits of basil. Eating basil in salads, smoothies, soups and meals are a great way to do something healthy for your body. Do you think you will try any of the recipes I shared? Let me know by leaving a comment below.