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Sweet Basil – Nutritional Guide

Sweet basil (also known as “Thai basil”) is a fragrant herb used in many well-known Thai dishes. It’s soft, green, pointed leaves are often said to resemble peppermint. Thai basil boasts a plethora of health-protecting properties, including anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects.

Consuming sweet basil: the health benefits

Basil contains two important, health-giving substances, flavonoids and volatile oils.

Flavonoids are famed for their antioxidant properties, as well as their medicinal role in the protection against a range of cancers.

In recent years, both food manufacturers and consumers have become more interested in the health-giving effects of flavonoids. Though no concrete physiological evidence is yet available, the beneficial properties of a range of foods and beverages – including herbs and teas – have been attributed to their high flavonoid content.

Basil flavonoids possess important anti-bacterial properties, which can provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth.

The volatile oils found in Thai basil also inhibit bacterial growth, fight inflammation and contain high levels of vitamin A, which supports cardiovascular health.

Sweet basil is also a fabulous source of manganese, vitamin K, copper and vitamin C, which support organ and cardiovascular health, cell regeneration and immune system function.

How – and how often – should I eat basil?

Basil is a fragrant, versatile herb, which can be added to a wide variety of dishes. Basil enhances the flavour of Thai and Mediterranean cuisine in equal measure. In order to protect the fragile micronutrients inherent in basil, it’s best to add it to a dish towards the end of cooking. Remember, basil stalks contain nourishment too, and can be blended or chopped into sauces such as pesto and bolognaise, and juices and smoothies too!

You can eat basil as often as you like! It’s flavour, though delicate, can prove overpowering, however, so it’s best to limit servings to a handful of leaves. Remember, opt for fresh, organic basil wherever possible.

Sweet basil: a nutritional profile

Basil is a fantastic source of source of vitamin K and manganese; a very good source of copper, vitamin A, and vitamin C; and a good source of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Erika Doolan – Nutrition Ireland

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