There’s nothing better than walking into my garden and smelling the amazing aroma of herbs. Their fragrance always inspires me to cook something fresh and tasty. Not only do fresh herbs provide a flavor boost to meals, they also provide tons of nutritional benefits.

We all know that most green, plant-based foods are full of health benefits, but which ones are the best of the best? Many herbs are on the top of the “super food” list with more nutritional value than Romaine lettuce and even spinach. “Compared with the same amount of lettuce, raw parsley gives you three times as much vitamin A, four times as much calcium, five times as much iron, 17 times as much vitamin K, and 44 times as much vitamin C. Similarly, the total antioxidant capacity of fresh oregano is eight times higher than spinach.” (http://nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com/are-herbs-good-for-you.aspx).

Those nutritional claims are pretty hard to ignore—I’m now inspired to grow an extra patch of oregano in my garden!

Herbs are also an effective way to reduce the sodium in your diet. One in three Americans has high blood pressure—way too many! High-sodium foods are a large contributor to high blood pressure, but reducing sodium can sometimes affect flavor. Fresh herbs can replace a lot of flavor lost from removing or reducing salt, and I often find I like the taste of herbs much better than salt. I love to experiment with different herbs and I never feel guilty about adding more—with herbs, the more the merrier! Your overall nutrition will only benefit.

Herbs are very easy to grow—they multiply like wildfire and are easy to care for. Not to mention if you grow them yourself, they’re an inexpensive way to add a nutritional punch and extra flavor to your daily diet.

Simple ways to use more fresh herbs and spices in your cooking:

  • Add spice to your morning eggs: eggs are fantastic with chives, parsley and cumin.
  • Load up your Italian favorites with fresh basil, oregano, garlic and red pepper flakes.
  • Add cilantro and paprika to your Mexican dishes to bring out a rich and aromatic flavor.
  • Add chili powder to beef dishes, soups and stews.
  • Add cumin and curry to Indian-based dishes.
  • Add cinnamon to most dessert dishes, pancakes and oatmeal.
  • Try your poultry, vegetables and potatoes with rosemary and sage.

The list of herb and spice combinations is endless. Get creative in your kitchen—introducing your kids to new flavors can be an adventure, but eventually, they’ll thank you for it!

Stay tuned for tomorrow: I’ll share a chart on how to grow your own herbs!

*This advice should not replace the advice of your doctor