Nutritious & Delicious Bay Leaf
Bay leaf is the fragrant leaf of the plant Laurus Nobilis, indigenous to Mediterranean countries. It not only adds a tasty, floral flavor to dishes, but also offers a variety of health benefits. Bay leaf contains the mineral iron as well as vitamins B-6 and folic acid, which are important in the production of red blood cells and metabolism. Bay leaf is also a source of vitamin A, necessary for normal vision. Although these nutrients are not found in high concentrations in bay leaf, there are other health benefits that this herb provides which make it worth adding to your diet.
Studies have shown that bay leaf, along with other herbs and spices such as garlic and cinnamon, play a role in lowering blood glucose and increasing insulin sensitivity. This helps to ensure that blood sugar levels do not stay elevated too long after eating, which is the main problem in diabetes. The studies also show that bay leaf can improve blood circulation and lower blood pressure. These health benefits can be obtained by consuming just a couple of tablespoons of the herb, the amount that is typically used in recipes. Bay leaf comes in both whole leaf and powder form - three (3) bay leaves equal one tablespoon of the ground form.
Bay leaf is sodium-free, yet is so flavorful that it can replace salt and preservatives in recipes. Many Americans consume too much salt in their diets, which can lead to hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Substituting bay leaf along with other herbs and spices for salt when preparing meals can make a big health difference!
Add ground bay leaf to flavor sauces and soup bases or to season meats. Try adding a whole bay leaf to season a tasty ratatouille recipe including red peppers, zucchini, and diced tomatoes. A colorful dish like this not only provides plenty of essential vitamins and minerals from the vegetables, but also gets an extra health and flavor boost from the bay leaf and other herbs and spices (if using the whole leaf form, remember to remove the leaf from your dish before eating). You can also create your own seasoning blend by grinding bay leaves and other herbs and spices and storing the mixture in a jar.
This article was submitted by Rachel Neifeld, RD, CDN, Clinical Dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell.
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