Spring for Fresh Herbs

by April Dupee

After spending a long New England winter bundled up and hibernating from the cold, spring is finally here! As the days get longer, the ground begins to thaw and trees start to bloom. This is the perfect time to lighten up your cooking with fresh ingredients.

Next time you’re in the grocery store or strolling through a farmers’ market, grab some fresh herbs to brighten up any dish. Not only do these small greens instantly elevate your meal with vibrant flavor, they also provide numerous nutritional benefits. Using fresh herbs can reduce sodium and fat by enhancing flavor without the need for excess salt or butter. In addition, many herbs provide important nutrients, such as vitamins A, K, and C, and minerals such as potassium, manganese, and magnesium. Herbs also have a long history of both culinary and medicinal use, and many have been touted for their protective effect against various diseases. Research suggests this may be due to polyphenols, a large group of compounds that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antimicrobial properties. However, more research is needed to establish therapeutic effects of dietary herbs, especially because they are usually consumed in small quantities. Nonetheless, fresh herbs are still an effortless way to lighten up your meals and boost your nutrition this spring.

How to Use Fresh Herbs

Don’t worry about fresh herbs rotting away in the back of your fridge after just one recipe. These greens can be used in a variety of dishes, including dips, soups, salads and much more.

Fresh basil healthy dinner fresh herbs

Image: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

  1. Basil 

Rich in nutrients and packed with antioxidants, basil has been researched for its anti-inflammatory, anti-aging,anti-microbial, and cancer fighting properties. One study found that basil even has strong antibacterial activity against widespread antibiotic resistant strains. And this popular herb isn’t just for your favorite Italian dishes. In addition to pesto, pizza, and pasta, basil can also be used in sauces, dressings, and salads. Mix things up with this Mediterranean chopped salad featuring tomatoes, peppers, feta, and basil.

 

Fresh parsley mediterranean meal

Image: Kalyn Denny

 

  1. Parsley

Just half a cup of freshly chopped parsley contains about 470% of your daily value for vitamin K. This versatile herb’s subtle yet fresh flavor is the perfect complement to any dish. Add it to soups, pasta, vegetable dishes, and salads. Next time you’re packing lunch, consider this protein-rich white bean salad with tuna and parsley.

 

Fresh chives in olive oil

Image: Hirsheimer Hamilton

  1. Chives

Chives belong to the allium genus, which also includes garlic, scallions, onions, and leeks. These vegetables contain allicin, an organic compound that may improve cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure and reducing bad cholesterol. The bright onion flavor of chives is delicious in dips, creamy sauces, baked potatoes, eggs, or quesadillas. Perk up your salads with this simple healthy chive vinaigrette.

 

Fresh cilantro bowl

Image: Lee Hersh

  1. Cilantro

High in vitamins A and K and full of citrusy flavor, cilantro can be used for more than topping your tacos or mixing into guacamole. Add this herb to curries, Asian cuisine, and meat dishes. Meal-prep with this cilantro lime chicken recipe for a satisfying week night meal.

 

Fresh mint cucumber salad

Image: Jennifer Segal

  1. Mint

Studies have shown that peppermint oil extracted from mint may aid in digestion and help those with irritable bowel syndrome by relaxing muscles in your digestive tract and promoting the flow of bile to help you digest more quickly. Use this refreshing herb in both sweet and savory dishes, such as sauces, salads, or desserts. For an easy side dish or snack, slice up this cooling cucumber and mint salad recipe.

 

Fresh dill potato salad

Image: Faith Durand

  1. Dill

The fragrant flavor of dill is delightful with fish, lamb, sour cream dressings, cheeses, cucumbers, and eggs. If you have leftover dill lying in your fridge, then whip up this simple recipe for potato salad with yogurt, arugula, and dill.

 

How to Keep Herbs Fresh

To keep your herbs fresh and flavorful for as long as possible, it’s important to keep them moist and reduce exposure to oxygen. Try these storage tips next time you buy a bunch.

  • Soft Herbs: For soft herbs with tender stems and leaves, such as parsley and cilantro, trim the ends of the stems, fill a glass or jar with one inch of cool water, and place them in the glass. Cover loosely with a plastic bag and keep refrigerated. Change the water every couple of days for the best results.
  • Hard Herbs: For hard herbs with woody stems and leaves, such as chives and rosemary, wrap them loosely in a damp paper towel and store in a zip-lock bag in the fridge.

 

Grow Your Own

Use the coming spring as inspiration to start your own simple herb garden. Growing your own herbs ensures you always have a fresh supply on hand and you can snip off only as much as you need at a time. It’s easy! All you need is a sunny spot outside or on your kitchen counter. Pick out herb seedlings and plant each herb in 8-inch pots with potting soil. Get ready to cook!

 

April Dupee is a first-year student in the Nutrition Interventions, Communications, and Behavior Change program and RD-to-be. She loves trying new recipes and hopes to improve her green thumb with an herb garden this spring.

5 Breakfasts to Power Your Heart

by April Dupee

The month of February is all about the heart. Not only is it that time of year when stores are stocked with greeting cards, balloons, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but also it marks American Heart Month to raise awareness about heart disease and prevention. With 1 in 3 deaths in the U.S. attributable to cardiovascular disease, American Heart Month serves as an important reminder to take care of our hearts and encourage our communities to support heart health initiatives.

In honor of American Heart Month and school back in full swing, I have rounded up my favorite, simple, make-ahead breakfast recipes full of heart healthy nutrients. Whether or not you have cardiovascular disease, a heart healthy diet is one we can all benefit from. Loading up your plate with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean poultry and fish will give you all the fiber and important nutrients you need to protect your heart. In addition, cutting back on sugar, sodium, saturated fats, and trans fats will reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors such as increased cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight.

Because these recipes can be made in advance, there is no need to compromise health for time when you are heading out the door in the morning. Give your breakfast a heart-healthy makeover that will power you through the day.

Breakfast Oatmeal Cupcakes To-Go

Baked oatmeal to-go, anyone? While many baked goods are filled with added sugar, refined flour, and saturated fats, these oatmeal cupcakes are loaded with fiber-rich oats to help keep cholesterol low. Make these even more delicious and nutritious with add-ins such as berries, flax seeds, and cinnamon. The best feature of this recipe is that it freezes well. Before you head out the door, pop one in the microwave and you will be ready to go!

Recipe and photo: Chocolate Covered Katie

Breakfast Oatmeal Cupcakes To-Go. Recipe and photo by Chocolate Covered Katie.

Chia Pudding

Don’t let their small size fool you—the chia seeds in this recipe are packed with nutrients including fiber, protein, and omega-3s. One ounce of chia seeds (about 2 tablespoons) has 10 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and about 6,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids! Low in sugar and saturated fats, this recipe is definitely a heart healthy alternative to your typical pudding.

Make this recipe the night before and get creative with flavor combinations and toppings. Some of my favorite add-ins and toppings include: Vanilla extract, cacao powder, cinnamon, bananas, berries, nut butters, coconut, and granola.

Recipe and photo: Nutrition Stripped

Chia Pudding. Recipe and photo by Nutrition Stripped.

Egg Muffins

Get your veggies in with this savory recipe! Vegetables are an important part of a heart-healthy diet by offering beneficial nutrients and fiber that keep calorie counts low and contribute to overall cardiovascular health. While the eggs in this recipe do contain cholesterol, current dietary guidelines indicate that dietary cholesterol does not affect blood cholesterol levels as much as we once thought. Rather, saturated fats are the main culprit. Nonetheless, these single serving cups will keep your portion sizes in check and your morning moving quickly as you head out the door.

Recipe and photo: hurrythefoodup

Egg Muffins. Recipe and photo by hurrythefoodup.

Overnight Oats

Wake up to a creamy bowl of oats that takes no more than 5 minutes to prep! No cooking required. If you like chia pudding but are looking for something a little heartier, overnight oats are a great option. The oats and chia seeds provide tons of fiber, which is thought to boost heart health by lowering cholesterol and helping with weight loss. In addition, the bananas used to sweeten and add a creamy texture keep this breakfast low in sugar and saturated fats.

Recipe and photo by OhSheGlows.

Overnight Oats. Recipe and photo by OhSheGlows.

2-Ingredient Pancakes

This recipe is as simple as it gets! Maybe not the traditional pancake you are used to, but with just bananas and eggs these pancakes are too easy not to try. With no sugar, oils, or processed flour that you often find in pancakes, this recipe is a quick heart healthy alternative. Plus, you can boost the nutrition with endless extras and toppings. I love to mix in nuts, berries, and cinnamon and top with nut butters. Make a batch and store the extras in the fridge or freezer when you need a quick breakfast.

Recipe and photo by The Kitchn.

2-Ingredient Pancakes. Recipe and photo by The Kitchn.

While we begin to gift our loved ones with flowers and chocolates this Valentine’s Day, let’s remember the greatest gift of all that we can give them—a long, healthy, and happy life. Use American Heart Month as motivation to take care of your heart and encourage your friends and family to do the same. With these simple and versatile recipes, you can start your day with a variety of heart-healthy fruits, veggies and whole grains. Make these recipes a part of your routine and trust that you are taking care of your heart as much as much as it takes care of you!

April Dupee is a first year in the NICBC program and future DPD student. With breakfast as her favorite meal of the day, she loves experimenting with healthy and delicious new recipes.