Basil is an herb for all seasons
Basil is one of the most commonly used of all herbs in cooking, and there are many recipes that are enhanced by this minty, aromatic plant. Many cooks like to grow fresh basil in an herb garden, for an endless supply of the freshest, best tasting herb for their recipes. Basil is quite easy to grow, and quiet inexpensive as well, so serious cooks should definitely consider growing their own basil.
Of course the dried basil found in supermarkets, whole food centers and health food stores is perfectly fine as well. The key is to buy only the top quality basil from the best manufacturers. The less processing this important herb goes through on its way to market, the more of its important health benefits it will be able to maintain.
Nutritional advantages of basil
Basil is rich in a variety of important nutrients, most notably calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A and vitamin C. In addition, basil is a good source of iron, potassium and magnesium.
Basil has a long and storied history, and the name basil is actually derived from an old Greek word “basilikohn”, which translates to “royal”. This fact helps to illustrate that basil was held in quite high regard by many ancient cultures around the world, both for its great taste and its many health benefits. This high regard for basil continues to this day, with basil being a symbol of love in Italy and a symbol of hospitality in India.
Basil is believed to have significant health effects, particularly in improving the health of the cardiovascular system. In addition, basil is a particularly good source of vitamin A, which is an essential ingredient of strong eyesight and healthy skin and hair. Basil contains high concentrations of carotenoids like beta carotene, and these substances are converted to vitamin A in the body. Beta carotene offers even more benefits than vitamin A alone, and it is known to be a strong antioxidant.
Antioxidants are important because they help prevent the cell damage that occurs from so called free radicals in the body. These free radicals are a natural part of the cell cycle, and they cannot be prevented. It is, however, possible to mitigate the damage done by these free radicals by eating a diet that is rich in antioxidant vitamins like beta carotene.
What to love about basil
In addition to its important health benefits, basil is one of the most delicious herbs on the market, and it is for this good taste that basil is most well known. While basil is a staple of Italian cooking, it is used in a wide variety of recipes in other cuisines as well. If you open your favorite cookbook, chances are you will see page after page of recipes that use this versatile and delicious spice.
When choosing dried basil, however, it is important to choose those brands that have been on the market a long time, and those that are made using the highest quality manufacturing processes. That is because how spices are handled after harvesting can have a significant impact on their health benefits. Choosing the highest quality basil will help you reap the many rewards of this popular herb.