The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Herbs are delicious and they make our dishes come alive with flavor and variety. Throughout history, herbs have been used not only in recipes and teas, but also medical treatments. Today, most of us have entire cupboards full of dried herbs. We often drink them in the form of caffeine-free teas, cook with them and use them for zesty natural home fragrances. A few of us may even harken back to our ancestors’ beliefs in herbs as treatments for illnesses and maladies.
These fragrant and delicious plants may be varied in their uses, but one thing is for sure: They’re really good for us! Here are just a few of the proven health benefits of herbs.
1. They’re Anti-Microbial
Herbs are anti-microbial, which means they help fight bacteria and harmful germs. The key to this property is herbs’ high concentration of polyphenols, a class of organic chemical micronutrients found in a variety of plants. We’ll hear about some of polyphenols’ other nutritional benefits later, but one of their well-known properties is their ability to fight bacteria. Oregano and dill are two herbs that are particularly chock-full of anti-microbial polyphenols.
2. They Help You Eat Better
This particular attribute isn’t related to a healthful nutrient within herbs, but rather the eating patterns that these plants help us adhere to. When we flavor our dishes with delicious and fragrant herbs, we make them more flavorful and appealing, encouraging us to eat healthy, whole foods. We are also able to reduce the amount of salt we add to our foods because we are adding so much flavor in the form of herbs. While salt isn’t necessarily a bad thing in moderation, herbs are a welcome substitute.
3. They’re Full of Antioxidants
Don’t think of berries and other fruits as the sole proprietors of antioxidants—these healthy foods get many of their antioxidant properties from polyphenols, just like herbs. Herbs provide a stunning number of antioxidants, making them a super nutritious addition to your dishes. Antioxidants bind to free radicals in the body, helping to fight their presence and potentially decrease your risk of certain cancers and chronic diseases.
4. They’re Low-Calorie
Just like vegetables and other leafy plants, herbs are extremely low in calories. Calories aren’t the only important thing to consider when you’re trying to eat healthy, of course, but the fact that using these plants as seasonings won’t impact the caloric count of your dish makes them far superior to dressings, sauces and rubs. If you’re watching your waistline or trying to balance your diet, herbs will be your best bet in terms of flavor additions.
5. They’re Anti-Inflammatory
Finally, just like many spices, herbs are anti-inflammatory. Chronic inflammation wreaks havoc in the body. In fact, according to the Washington Post, it’s suspected to be linked to arthritis, Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease. The anti-inflammatory properties of herbs are attributed to—you guessed it—polyphenols. Add some herbs to whole food dishes such as vegetables and fresh meats and you’ll be on your way toward reducing inflammation in your body.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market. Cirou Frederic / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market, according to new research from the advocacy organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), which bills itself as an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first three years of development.
By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
Volvo introduced its first-ever all-electric vehicle this week, kicking off an ambitious plan to slash emissions and phase out solely gas-powered vehicles starting this year.
The report, released Wednesday, found that almost every European who lives in a city is exposed to unhealthy air, Reuters reported.