The unique health benefits of basil are primarily due to its very high antioxidant content.
Basil is an excellent source of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which your body uses to manufacture vitamin A, a key component in the prevention of free radical damage.
Free radical damage is the primary cause of atherosclerosis and heart disease, and is a contributing factor in many other conditions as well, including respiratory problems, arthritis, cancer and many other degenerative diseases.
Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K and a very good source of iron and calcium. It's also a good source of dietary fiber, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium.
It's a little-known fact that herbs (and spices) such as basil have far greater concentrations of antioxidants than any common fruit or vegetable. Herbs also contain a particularly wide variety of antioxidants as well, making them some of the top antioxidant foods around.
Antioxidants are nutrient compounds found in virtually all plant foods (and also manufactured in your body). The primary job of antioxidants is to protect your cells against the oxidative stress caused by free radicals, considered to be the primary cause of the aging process.
Protecting yourself against free radicals with antioxidants is the most effective way to reduce the risk of many health problems associated with aging. The benefits of antioxidants include powerful protection against all types of degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, macular degeneration, Alzheimer's disease, and many more.
Antioxidants work together, synergistically, and each one has its own specific characteristics and benefits. One antioxidant may work in places in the body where another one can't go, and neutralize free radicals that other antioxidants miss. Therefore, getting the widest variety of antioxidants is just as important as how much of any one antioxidant you get. See my page on How Do Antioxidants Work? to learn more about this.
The unique array of flavonoids (a family of antioxidants) found in basil provide protection for your cell structures, as well as protection from radiation and other free radical damage.
The health benefits of basil include an ability to protect against unwanted bacterial growth. Essential oil of basil, obtained from its leaves, has even demonstrated an ability to inhibit pathogenic bacteria that have become resistant to commonly used antibiotic drugs.
Basil is an excellent anti-inflammatory food that can provide important healing benefits, along with symptomatic relief, for individuals with health problems like rheumatoid arthritis or bowel conditions related to inflammation.
The eugenol component of basil's volatile oils works very much like aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen, inhibiting a particular enzyme in your body to help reduce inflammation.
Basil health benefits are so numerous, ideally you'd want to have some every day. However, as with any herb or spice, you may find it impractical to include basil in your meal plans that often. There's an easy way to accomplish this — by making yourself a smoothie every day and adding some basil to your recipe.
Fresh smoothies make for some of the most nutritious, delicious and easy-to-make meals you could imagine. They're a great way to get more of those "good for you" antioxidant-rich foods (that you may not get enough of) into your diet.
I personally use herbs such as basil, cilantro and parsley in my green smoothie recipes to give them more of the benefits of dark green leafy vegetables. Because they're so concentrated with antioxidants, you can use a much smaller amount than you would with other greens like kale or spinach, and they won't overwhelm the flavor of your smoothie recipe.
I don't stop there, either. I like to use other spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger, turmeric and others in my smoothie recipes, mostly for their added antioxidant benefits. Once they're blended in with all the other ingredients, you can't really distinguish any one particular taste. You just need to experiment a little to get the flavor just right for you.
To learn more about the art of making smoothies, skip on over to my page on How to Make a Smoothie the Healthy Way and learn all my tricks for making delicious and nutritious smoothies!
To learn more about basil and ways to use this beneficial herb,
check out The World's Healthiest Foods/Basil.
Fresh basil is best, of course — there's nothing like a handful of fresh basil leaves to spark up a green salad. Make it a habit to keep some on hand at all times.
If you want to get all of the health benefits of basil from the dried variety, you'll want to stay away from typical supermarket brands of bottled spices. Most of them are irradiated in order to destroy microorganisms, bacteria, and viruses that might be present.
Irradiation damages the integrity of the spice — destroying vitamins, minerals, proteins and other beneficial micronutrients. Irradiation also creates more free radicals, just the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish by eating spices.
Fortunately, I've got a wonderful online source for premium-quality organic spices — Starwest Botanicals and iHerb.com.
Starwest Botanicals started as a small retail herb shop in 1975 in Sacramento, California. From the beginning, their focus has been on quality; they source their products directly from around the world and process them in-house with their own herb mill to have more control over the finished product.
The Starwest company actively supports sustainable organic farming; as much as possible, they select ingredients from natural renewable sources and use renewable sources of energy.
The benefits of basil can be gotten from the leaves themselves, or from basil oil. You can get the best price on Starwest Organic Basil, or check out the selection of basil oil products at iHerb.com. You'll also find thousands of other nutritional supplements and natural health products at iHerb.com as well. There's many reasons why iHerb is a great place to shop. Here's just a few:
• Great Prices — 30% to 40% off most name-brand products
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In addition, iHerb has been named
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