THE HERBS AND SPICES ISSUE #498 03/28/12
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Leaf Relief: 8 Awesome Herbs for Your Kitchen

By Jeanine Natale

Next time you walk into the kitchen and smell something delicious that makes your mouth water, or you have a fresh salad that's got something extra yummy in it, odds are that you can blame it on fresh green herbs—fragrant, flavorful, and actually good for you. Sure, you can get the dried version in a jar, but fresh herbs bring a whole new dimension to healthy cooking.

Used sparingly or with a heavy hand, fresh green herbs are delicious and available year-round in your local market's produce section. Experiment with different kinds, and use your sniffer . . . you should be able to smell a full, fresh fragrance from bright, perky greens that don't show signs of brown spots or yellow, droopy sogginess. Better still, with a little sunshine and a few pots, you can start your own easy-to-maintain herb garden. Then you can be 100 percent sure they're fresh!

Not sure where to start? Here are eight awesome herbs that'll make your recipes sing and your health soar.

Herbs

  1. Parsley. This curly-leafed herb is one that you've seen just about everywhere. It has almost twice the carotenoid content of carrots. It is rich in antioxidants which have been shown to help slow down the effects of aging and may help prevent coronary artery disease. Parsley also contains apigenin—a phytonutrient shown to have substantial anti-cancer properties, by working to inhibit the formation of new tumor-feeding blood cells. Furthermore, Mediterranean-style parsley salad—often known as tabouli—is amazing!
  2. Cilantro. Basically a flat-leaf parsley, but with a very different aroma and taste, these delicate 1/4-inch leaves help cut cholesterol, reduce high blood sugar, promote detoxification of the blood, and are a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Chopped cilantro (and a squeeze of lime) on just about every savory Mexican and Middle Eastern dish is a delicious mix of flavors!
  3. Basil. These wide, slightly curly leaves are a good source of vitamin A and magnesium. They also contain iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. Basil has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties that come from its high volatile (aromatic) oils content, which include—to name a few—linalool, estragole, and limonene. Many studies have shown that in the presence of these oils, the growth of bacteria such as listeria and Staphylococcus aurea (two big bad boys in the world of dangerous infections) have been noticeably restricted. And as we all know, pesto totally rocks on pasta!
  4. Mint. These small, slightly fuzzy, wrinkly leaves, like their cousin basil, have been shown to have strong anti-microbial properties, thanks to the oils within. When put head to head with bacteria such as Salmonella and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aurea (MRSA), mint oils inhibited the growth of these little monsters. Mint also soothes your tummy and can be helpful in lessening the effects of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and dyspepsia, by its ability to help relax the smooth muscles in all these areas. Mint tea, anyone? How about a refreshing and fun mint julep . . . mmm!
  5. Chives. This pungent, slightly spicy herb is related to garlic and leeks. Like garlic, chives are known for their high allicin content—the antioxidant compound that's been shown to help scrub your system clean of toxins and have anti-aging properties. And it does a number on bacterial and fungal agents, much to our benefit. Allicin is also what gives chives their distinctive odor. Nutritionally, chives are a good source of beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin K, calcium, and folic acid, plus trace amounts of iron and vitamin B.

    Primarily used raw, chives are most often sprinkled on hot foods like baked potatoes, and of course, soups and pasta. Experiment by sprinkling fresh-chopped chives on any savory dish you make—soup, veggies, fish, or beans . . . delicious!
  6. Dill. This plant with delicate wispy fronds for leaves has one of the most distinctive tastes and aromas from our list—you could recognize it anywhere. It's high in calcium, manganese, iron, fiber, and magnesium. Like basil and mint, dill contains volatile oils such as limonene and anethofuran that have antioxidant properties. It has other healing properties, too. Ancient Greek and Roman soldiers would use burnt dill seeds on their wounds to heal more quickly.

    Classically, dill is used as a cooking ingredient/garnish for any fish dish and as part of the pickling recipes for, well, dill pickles. A delicious dipping sauce is made with light plain yogurt, grated cucumbers, fresh garlic, and chopped dill.
  7. Fennel. Looking like dill on steroids, fennel has a completely different taste—that of black licorice! Its large, bulbous root end is the part used most—you can peel the stalks off like celery, and they can be sliced and prepared in the same way. Or you can slice the bulb very thinly and either leave the slices intact, or break each slice into smaller pieces. The upper part of this plant—the dill-like part—can be used as edible garnish, or added into any recipe. It's a good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, potassium, and manganese. Plus, there are small amounts of iron, calcium, and vitamin A thrown in for good measure. Fennel has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and may help to lower cholesterol due to its high fiber content. A super-simple and refreshing way to enjoy fennel is to thinly slice a stalk against the fibers and lightly drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Or just nibble on the ungarnished slices. Chilled fennel is a surprising treat.
  8. Oregano. What list of herbs is complete without this staple of hundreds of cuisines from around the world? This is one herb that is very commonly found in dried form, but if you can find it fresh in your local market's produce section, it's a wonderful thing. Woody, thick stalks feature dozens of fuzzy curly little leaves measuring about 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. Oregano is an excellent source of vitamin K, and a good source of vitamins A and C. It also contains decent amounts of iron, manganese, and folate. Together with oils, like thymol, that have been shown to be anti-bacterial and anti-fungal in nature, the nutrients found in oregano pack a real power punch—even in small amounts.

Try mincing fresh leaves very finely, and sprinkle on slices of tomato and cucumber, drizzled with a touch of olive oil—a very Mediterranean-style snack.

Although fresh green herbs are generally used sparingly in any dish, if used on a regular basis, you can benefit from all the good stuff packed into these fragrant plants. Some might not tickle your taste buds; others might totally have your tongue falling head over heels in love. Experiment as much as you can. Most herbs—even when sold in those little fancy plastic packages—are not that costly, especially considering you'll be using them in small amounts and they will last for at least several days in the refrigerator.

A Leaf for Every Occasion: How to Make the Most of Your Herbs

Parsley Salads, vegetables, pasta
Cilantro Asian, Mexican, Spanish, and Indian dishes, salsas, chutneys
Basil Tomatoes, vegetables, poultry, grilled pizza, salads, sauces
Mint Beverages, jellies, sauces, marinades for meats, vegetables, desserts, teas
Chives Egg dishes, soups, sauces, baked potatoes, fish
Dill Tuna salad, omelets, vegetables, seafood, yogurt dips, herb vinegars, pickles
Fennel Vegetable dishes, risotto, salads, pastas, pork roast, sausage, desserts
Oregano Oregano Lamb, beef, eggs, beans, eggplant, tomato sauces

Resources:

  • UV Spectrometric and DC Polarographic Studies on Apigenin and Luteolin D. Romanova and A. Vachalkova, Cancer Research Institute Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 1999.
  • Studies On the Dual Antioxidant and Antibacterial Properties of Parsley and Cilantro Extracts Peter Y.Y. Wong, David D. Kitts, Department of Food, Nutrition and Health, The University of British Columbia, 2005.
  • Comparative Studies On the Activity of Basil—An Essential Oil from Ocimum basilicum L.—Against Multidrug Resistant Clinical Isolates of the Genera Staphylococcus, Enterococcus and Pseudomonas by Using Different Test Methods G Opalchenova and D Obreshkova, Department of Microbiological and Biological Control of Drugs, Bulgarian Drug Agency, 2002.
  • Peppermint Study Overview by Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011.
  • In Vitro Mechanism of Inhibition of Bacterial Cell Growth by Allicin R.S. Feldberg, et al, American Society for Microbiology, 1988.
  • Chemical Composition of the Volatile Oil from Different Plant Parts of Anethum Graveolens L.(Umbelliferae)Cultivated in Romania V. Radulescu, et al., University of Medicine and Pharmacy Bucharest, 2010.
  • Comparison Between the Radical Scavenging Activity and Antioxidant Activity of Six Distilled and Nondistilled Mediterranean Herbs and Aromatic Plants Irene Parejo, et al., Departament de Productes Natural, Universitat de Barcelona, 2002.
  • Antibacterial Activity of Oregano Against Gram Positive Bacteria Sabahat Saeed and Perween Tariq, Department of Microbiology, University of Karachi, 2009.

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If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com. We may even answer your question right here, for all the world to see!

And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration. You can also read a more scientific (not to mention snarky) take on many of the topics we discuss here at The Real Fitness Nerd blog.

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Chili Peppers: A Hot Ticket for a Healthy Diet

By Kim Kash

If you're one of those obnoxious, macho types who makes a big show of snacking on hot peppers for the shock value—keep it up! It looks like chili pepper hotheads may be less susceptible to inflammation, diabetes, prostate cancer, and heart disease. Plus, all that spicy hotness chases away congestion, and it even (ironically) helps to prevent stomach ulcers.

Roasting Chili Peppers

Native to Central and South America, chili peppers were introduced to Asia in the 1500s and have been a cornerstone of cuisines in both those parts of the world ever since. In the West, the heat of chili peppers is measured using the Scoville Organoleptic Test, named after Wilbur Scoville, the chemist who devised it in the early 1900s. It sounds very fancy and technical but, in fact, the Scoville method is a subjective process involving subjects who sip diluted solutions of ground chilis and sugar water. In other words, the Scoville Method isn't much more scientific than the Pepsi Challenge®. There are now more scientific ways of measuring chili heat, but the Scoville method is still the one mostly used by the food industry.

Asian countries don't use the Scoville method; instead, they rely on the general rule of thumb that the smaller a chili is, the hotter it is. Again, not so much with the science, but it makes sense when you consider this: the hottest part of a chili pepper actually is not the seeds, but the white membrane where the seed attaches inside the pepper. Larger peppers have proportionately less of this membrane than smaller ones, so they are generally milder. We probably all think the seeds pack the punch in hot peppers because they sit in such close proximity to the membrane and absorb its heat, and then they often remain whole in pepper sauces and condiments.

Chili PeppersThe fiery goodness of chili peppers comes from capsaicin, which has been found to inhibit substance P, associated with the inflammatory process. The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. Researchers are looking at capsaicin as a treatment for arthritis, psoriasis, and diabetic neuropathy. It seems counterintuitive that chili peppers would inhibit the inflammatory process, since handling them in the kitchen can irritate your fingers, and too many of them in the salsa can make your head feel like it's on fire, but there you have it.

Some veteran travelers to countries where the freshness of food can be questionable make it a point to eat food as spicy as they possibly can—that spice invariably coming from fresh or dried chilis—in order to ward off illness and boost immunity. Chili peppers have lots of beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C, and they kill bacteria you may have ingested.

The capsaicin in chili peppers is also a thermogenic: it causes heat production and heat production burns calories. Even sweet red peppers increase the body's heat production for several minutes after they are consumed. Certainly there are more efficient ways to lose weight than stuffing your face with hot chili peppers! But isn't it nice to know that adding more salsa might help you burn that burrito off slightly faster?

Related Articles
"8 Insider Tips to Help You Burn Fat Faster"
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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Check the Team Beachbody Chat Room for the next impromptu video chat. Or, if you just can't wait, log onto the Information & Education section of the Team Beachbody Message Boards for questions, answers, and scintillating conversation.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com. We may even answer your question right here, for all the world to see!

And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration. You can also read a more scientific (not to mention snarky) take on many of the topics we discuss here at The Real Fitness Nerd blog.

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Ancient Wisdom: 3 Ways to Exercise Body and Mind

By Sarah Stevenson

Odds are, you've noticed yoga and martial art studios popping up like Starbucks® in your neighborhood. Or maybe you've noticed that Sunday Tai Chi class in the park being populated by increasingly younger, fitter practitioners. Mindful exercise techniques may date back as far as 3rd millennium BC in Asia, but they're only now really starting to take hold in the West. And that's just great, because we simply can't ignore the insurmountable research that suggests we need the knowledge and benefits that these practices provide. So which one is right for you? Let's take a look.

Stack of Four Rocks

Tai Chi and Qigong

Tai Chi and Qigong are gentle exercise routines that derived from traditional Chinese medicine. Formed from the martial arts, they consist of slow, concise movements, meditation, and deep breathing, which research suggests increases physical health and emotional well-being. Here are some of their benefits:

  • Strengthens the body. In a Japanese study, 113 older adults were assigned to different 12-week exercise programs, including Tai Chi, brisk walking, and resistance training. People who practiced Tai Chi improved more than 30 percent in lower-body strength and 25 percent in arm strength—nearly as much as those who participated in resistance training, and more than those assigned to brisk walking.
  • Creates harmony and balance. The goal of this form of exercise is to find the balance in all things. They follow the philosophy of Yin (possessing characteristics such as the feminine, negative, dark, passive, cold, and wet) and Yang (possessing characteristics such as masculine, positive, bright, active, hot, and dry). "Force" (or literally, "fist") is how one achieves this ying-yang, or "supreme-ultimate" discipline. Through focused, controlled movements, you bring about a sense of balance, alignment, concise motor control, rhythm of movement, and a focus on the center axis of the body.
  • Calms the mind. These practices are considered meditation in motion. Smooth, slow movements gracefully flow into the next, causing the mind and body to work together. Slowing your movements down slows your mind down and, in turn, gives you a sense of peace and tranquility.

Dr. Mark ChengIf you'd like to explore Tai Chi a little more, check out Tai Cheng, a mix of classical Tai Chi techniques, ancient Chi Kung practices, and modern corrective exercise patterns that both rehab and prehab the body, improving the body's metabolism, joint function, stress management, and athletic performance!

Yoga

The English translation of the sanskrit word yoga is "union." The goal is to bring the body, mind, and soul into a place of union. Here in the West, yoga is mostly physical postures or poses called asanas, paired with meditation through focused breath. Here is what research has to say about the benefits a yoga practice has to offer us:

  • Builds muscle. This is a fun, easy way to build muscles. The way yoga builds muscle has to do with the weight bearing poses involved. Poses are held for several breaths, and when you hold the poses, you use your own body weight to place resistance on your muscles. Yoga also offers the benefit of weight-bearing exercise in which your muscle works against gravity. This actually helps build and strengthen bones, creating increased bone density for your upper and lower body.
  • Woman Doing a Yoga Move Near a LakeCalms the mind. Yoga is known for a breathing technique call "Ujjayi." You inhale and exhale through your nose and create a slight constriction in the back of your throat. This makes a sound similar to waves passing in and out of the ocean and is incredibly calming. The inhale and the exhale are equal in duration. Ujjayi is a balancing and calming breath, which increases oxygen and builds internal body heat. It's quite beneficial to use off the mat as well. Try it next time you feel road rage coming on.
  • Strengthens the immune system. Stretching muscles and joints, as well as massaging the organs, allows blood flow to various parts of your body. This aids in the clearing out of toxins from every corner of the body, as well as providing nourishment up to the last point. This leads to the benefits of delayed aging, increased energy, and an unshakable zest for life.

Beachbody® has several yoga workouts for you to explore, ranging from the straightforward, meditative Yoga Booty Ballet® session Pure & Simple Yoga, to Tony Horton's more intense workouts such as Fountain of Youth and Hummingbird, both found in his One-on-One series.

Other Martial Arts

While you may think martial arts are just about Bruce Lee beating the tar out of all takers, the truth is that most practitioners view it more as a lifestyle than a form of combat. There are scores of forms, ranging from Jiu Jitsu (a Brazilian wrestling martial art) to Capoeira (another Brazilian martial art involving dance and music) to Akido (a largely defense Japanese martial art) to the ever popular Karate. The main purpose of each of these is to teach self-defense and physical and mental discipline. While they all have their own unique benefits, here are a few they share.

  • Strengthens the body. A set of sequenced routines known as the "katas" are what make up the discipline involved in most martial arts. These hard-style movements are a great source of aerobic and cardio exercise. It is quite easy to build muscle in the grappling sports using your own physical weight to defend against the opponent. When performing martial arts you are able to get a full-body workout, working your upper and lower body equally.
  • Improves balance and coordination. Balance is required to perform many of the kicks appropriately and is key for landing. Coordination is taught through repetitive movements executed at the same exact place, each time. This improves hand-eye coordination. Balance and coordination can be helpful when defending yourself or even when playing sports.
  • A Kid Doing a Karate MoveIncreases self confidence. All martial arts teachers will urge you to stay away from physical altercations, but knowing you can defend yourself in any given situation gives you a sense of confidence. My 11-year-old son is a small-framed child and never carried himself with a sense of pride. That is until he joined Jiu Jitsu. After just 3 weeks of classes I noticed a confidence in his character and stature. He even noticed that other children started treating him with more respect and he never laid a hand on them.

Again, you'll find martial arts workouts littered throughout the Beachbody line, from Tony Horton’s Kenpo workouts in P90X® and P90X2®, to the Capoeira you'll find in Brazil Butt Lift® and RevAbs®. (You'll also find a few kickboxing moves in RevAbs!)

I began my own journey into the mind-body world of yoga the day my son was born and placed on my chest. The moment he looked into my eyes, I had an awakening of a peace and tranquility that I had not been aware of until that moment. I embarked on a journey from that moment on to seek out ways to keep this peace alive and awake. What I found was a beautiful, holistic approach toward health. I practice yoga every day of my life. With this have come additional benefits. I may be a 35-year-old woman, but I have the insides of an 18-year-old according to my doctor. Regardless of your intentions for practicing mind-body exercise, you will be pleasantly surprised on its ability to quiet your mind and strengthen you physically and emotionally.

So, begin your journey today.

Resources:

  • Wong Kiew Kit (November 1996). The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan: A Comprehensive Guide to the Principles. Element Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1852307929.
  • Tai Chi Health: www.taichihealth.com
  • Clements, John (January 2006). "A Short Introduction to Historical European Martial Arts". Meibukan Magazine (Special Edition No. 1): 2–4. http://www.meibukanmagazine.org/Downloads/MMSpecialEdition1.pdf.
  • Barbara Stoler Miller, "Yoga: Discipline of Freedom: the Yoga Sutra Attributed to Patanjali; a Translation of the Text, with Commentary, Introduction, and Glossary of Keywords." University of California Press, 1996, page 8.

Related Articles
"Fantastic Voyage: 10 Easy Ways to Guarantee a Blissful Commute"
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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Check the Team Beachbody Chat Room for the next impromptu video chat. Or, if you just can't wait, log onto the Information & Education section of the Team Beachbody Message Boards for questions, answers, and scintillating conversation.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com. We may even answer your question right here, for all the world to see!

And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration. You can also read a more scientific (not to mention snarky) take on many of the topics we discuss here at The Real Fitness Nerd blog.

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Recipe: Fragrant and Fabulous Green Herb Salad

(Makes 2 servings)

Fragrant and Fabulous Green Herb Salad

Still not sure what to do with all those leafy herbs you read about in this issue? When all else fails, here's a sure-fire solution: put 'em all in a big bowl and eat 'em! This fragrant combination of greens makes a fabulous salad. You can eat it as is or serve it with just about any main dish. One of the myriad flavors within is bound to complement just about anything you serve alongside it.

  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • 1/4 cup sliced fennel
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped dill
  • 1 tsp. chopped chives (optional)
  • 2 cups red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into matchstick-sized pieces
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
  1. Combine parsley, basil, mint, fennel, dill, chives, lettuce, spinach, carrot, and celery in a large bowl; set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine oil, lemon juice, and oregano, if desired.
  3. To serve salad, combine greens, salad dressing, and cilantro; toss gently to blend.

Tips/modifications:
The greens can be combined ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator in a resealable plastic bag. This salad can be served with added protein such as hard-boiled eggs, grilled chicken or fish, cooked beans, or sunflower seeds.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 0 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Fat Saturated Fat Cholesterol Sodium Carbs Fiber Sugar Protein
159 14 g 2 g 0 g 72 mg 9 g 4 g 2 g 2 g

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.


P90X® and P90X2® Portion Information

Nutritional Information: (per serving)

Fat Vegetables
1 1


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