July 22, 2024

Herbs: Benefits Beyond Flavor by Laura Maydak

Herbs have long been used to add flavor to dishes, but research is starting to show that their benefits reach further than our taste buds.

These flavor-boosters are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients, which may help to protect our bodies against inflammation, infection, cancer, and other chronic diseases.  Intrigued? Then read on! Your taste buds (and body) will thank you.

Herb Spotlight: 5 to Try

- Food pairings: Meat, poultry, beans, potatoes, mushrooms, apples
- Complimentary flavors: Parsley, thyme, oregano, marjoram, fennel, bay leaf
Bonus: Research suggests that marinating meats with rosemary before grilling may reduce the creation of carcinogenic compounds

- Food pairings: Cheese, vegetables, tomato sauce
- Complimentary flavors: Garlic, parsley, thyme, basil, tarragon, marjoram
Bonus: Oregano has been shown to have the highest antioxidant activity among 27 culinary herbs

- Food pairings: Seafood, poultry, lamb, tomatoes, mushrooms, artichokes
- Complimentary flavors: Sage, basil, bay leaf, oregano, parsley, rosemary
Bonus: Thyme contains a variety of health-promoting antioxidants

- Food pairings: Poultry, sausage, pork, rice, apples
- Complimentary flavors: Thyme, paprika, garlic, savory, parsley, ginger, marjoram
Bonus: Sage tea has been used reduce intestinal gas and promote digestion

- Food pairings: Beans, lamb, cucumber, peas, grains, fruits, beverages
- Complimentary flavors: Basil, oregano, citrus, cayenne, dill, thyme, parsley
Bonus: Peppermint has antioxidant, antitumor, antimicrobial, and antiviral activities

Get the Most Flavor From your Herbs:
- For dishes that have a long cook time, add herbs near the end.  This will ensure that their flavors aren’t cooked out and lost.
- For cold dishes, add the herbs several hours before serving.  This will allow for the flavors to blend – which takes longer in the absence of heat.
- Finely chop fresh herbs.  This will allow for more flavor and aroma to be released.

Now, it’s Thyme to Experiment!
- Skip the salt! Season dishes with dried herbs and spices instead
- Sprinkle fresh/dried herbs into salads (fruit- or vegetable-based)
- Make your own marinade or salad dressing
- Give breads, muffins, and biscuits a savory twist by incorporating herbs
- Mix herbs into plain, fat-free Greek yogurt to make a flavorful, high-protein dip

Laura is currently a graduate student in the University of Pittsburgh’s Coordinated Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics program on her way to become a registered dietitian.  Connect with Laura on twitter (@lmaydak) for motivation and tips to live your healthiest, happiest life – all given with a healthy dose of humor.

Fresh Herbs: Great for the Body! By Lori Rosenthal, MS, RD, CDN

Fresh Herbs: Great for the Body and the Taste Buds

Fresh herbs contribute mouth-watering flavor to dishes without adding salt. But their usefulness doesn’t stop in the kitchen. Since ancient times, herbal remedies have been used to treat all sorts of ailments. Herbs contain antioxidants, substances with disease fighting properties. Antioxidants protect our bodies from cell damage caused by free radicals, which contribute to heart disease and cancer. In addition, certain herbs may soothe muscle spasms, reduce inflammation and fight infections.

With so many potential benefits, why wouldn’t we want to incorporate them into our diet. Start by adding fresh herbs to your favorite recipes. From salads to entrees, adding fresh herbs can make an ordinary dish extraordinary. Experiment with fresh herbs in homemade marinades and rubs. Basic marinades are comprised of herbs, spices, condiments, oils and an acid such as citrus fruit juice, vinegar or wine. Rubs can either be wet or dry and are a great way to infuse meat, poultry or fish with flavor. Try various combos of fresh herbs. Create flavors that excite the taste buds, but don’t overpower the other ingredients. An added bonus, homemade marinades and rubs do not contain the high levels of sodium, sugar and preservatives found in packaged products.

Use fresh herbs when making dressings, dips and sauces as well. Pesto is one of my all time favorites. This is my personal pesto recipe, so feel free to adjust it to your taste. Combine the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until it reaches a paste consistency. Freeze some in an ice cube tray for later use (freezes better without the parmesan). Pop out a cube, heat it up and add it to any dish for a quick, preservative free meal.

Basic Pesto
2 cups fresh basil
1/2 cup parsley
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 handful of pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan

This Italian salsa verde recipe was a staple in my house growing up. It pairs well with meat, poultry, fish or vegetables. Use it as a dipping sauce or condiment. I suggest trying it with salmon.

Salsa Verde
(Adapted from Bon Apetite)
1 1/2  cups chopped parsley
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped scallion tops (AKA: The green part)
1/4 cup drained and rinsed capers
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbs minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp chopped fresh sage

Whether home grown or store bought, fresh herbs are not to be missed. Start taking your dining experience to the next level today. Your taste buds and body will thank you.

Lori Rosenthal, MS, RD, CDN
Bariatric Dietitian
Department of Surgery
Montefiore Medical Center
Follow Lori on Twitter via @LoRoRD

Healthy Stuffing? Recipe by Susan Irby

Holiday stuffing doesn’t have to mean blowing your diet. Substitute protein and fiber rich quinoa for starchy rice and heavy bread stuffings. This delicious stuffing may become the new family favorite and provides maximum flavor, protein, and is a refreshing alternative to traditional stuffings.

Quinoa Sausage Stuffing with Cranberry and Sage
Serves 8


1 cup quinoa
2 cups water (or vegetable or chicken broth)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ pound Italian sausage
½ pound Italian turkey sausage*
15 medium sage leaves, chopped
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
½ to 1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup roughly chopped toasted walnuts
¾ cup dried cranberries


Make quinoa by bringing quinoa and water (or broth) to a boil over high heat in a medium stockpot or saucepan.  Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook for 15 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed.  Set aside, covered, until ready to use.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute 1 and a half minutes.  Add Italian and turkey sausage and cook until browned, breaking up with a wooden spoon during the cooking process.  Stir in sage, thyme, cooked quinoa, salt and pepper until well combined.  Stir in walnuts and cranberries.  Serve as a side dish or stuff cooked Cornish hens or turkey and serve on a platter.  (Copyright Susan Irby The Bikini Chef 2012)

*NOTE:  If turkey sausage is not available Italian seasoned, add ½ tablespoon Italian seasoning to the recipe when adding the turkey sausage.

Calories:  333.2
Fat: 19.0g
Carbohydrates:  28.0g
Protein:  14.5g
Fiber: 3.2g
Sodium:  274.2mg

TV, Radio host and multi-published author, Susan Irby The Bikini Chef, hosts Bikini Lifestyles on national public television and AM 790 KABC radio.  Specializing in healthy, flavorful recipes as found in her books  The Complete Idiot’s Guide Quinoa Cookbook (July 2012 Penguin Publishing), Substitute Yourself Skinny, Boost Your Metabolism (Adams Media 2010).  Among media appearances, The Bikini Chef has been featured on FOX11 Good Day LA, KCAL9, CBS2, ABC7.  www.thebikinichef.com. NOW AVAILABLE!  The Complete Idiot’s Guide Quinoa Cookbook  http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Idiots-Guide-Quinoa-cookbook/dp/1615641939/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336586754&sr=8-1. Follow Susan Irby The Bikini Chef on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/thebikinichef and become a fan on Facebook http://tinyurl.com/2famueb