The power of nature, and natural food is simply amazing, especially when it comes to staying healthy. Something else that is amazing is homemade pesto. If you've never made it, it is much easier than you'd think, and you can adjust it to your family's taste. Personally I LOVE making pesto! Not only because fresh pesto taste so delicious, but also because my children don't even realize they are eating green leafy foods (I add spinach into mine for an extra health boost)! Use it as a dip, or to top chicken, fish, pasta, veggies, or even pizza. The possibilities are endless. Below are just some of the many health benefit of basil, followed by my pesto recipe. If you are in need of some fresh organic basil to try out this recipe, feel free to grab some at our office ... it is starting to take over our waiting room! Happy, healthy eating!
Promotes a Healthy Gut and Digestion
Basil helps restore the body's natural pH levels and feeds healthy bacteria within the gut microflora. A healthy gut flora increases immunity and promotes healthy digestion. Moreover, Eugenol, one of the essential oils present in the leaves, has an anti-inflammatory action in the digestive tract. Basil has traditionally been used to help with indigestion and reflux, as well reduce bloating and water retention.
Inflammation has become a widespread issue in American culture and is the root cause of nearly every chronic disease. Consuming foods to calm inflammation is essential for optimal health. Basil contains powerful essential oils, including eugenol, citronellol and linalool, which help reduce inflammation. The anti-inflammatory properties of basil may help lower risk of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions, among many other inflammatory processes.
This herb contains a range of natural antioxidants, which help protect body tissues against free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable atoms that cause damage to individual cells over time. Increased intake of anti-oxidants helps reduce this "oxidative stress" in the body. Basil contains two important water-soluble flavonoid antioxidants, known as orientin and viceninare. These potent antioxidants strengthen immune system, protect cellular structure, DNA and even delay effects of skin ageing.
Supports Liver Function and Helps Detoxify the Body
As Americans we are surrounded by toxins both in our environment and in our foods, not to mention make-up and skin products. The liver plays a crucial role detoxification and metabolism. Basil can help prevent fat build-up in the liver, keeping it healthy and functioning optimally.
Fights Stress and Depression
Basil's essential oils can stimulate neurotransmitters that regulate the hormones responsible for inducing happiness and energy. Basil is considered a powerful adaptogen or an anti-stress agent. Its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties help manage stress too.
Diabetes and Cholesterol Management
Consumption of basil can help slow the release of sugar from food into the bloodstream, which is very essential for diabetics. In addition, the essential oils present in basil helps cut down triglyceride and cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke (which are even higher for patients with diabetes).
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (can sub 1/3 the basil leaves with baby spinach)
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese (or skip the cheese)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts (can sub chopped walnuts)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
Dash of fresh lemon juice if available
Place basil leaves and pine nuts into the food processor and pulse several times. Add the garlic and cheese (optional) and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Slowly add the olive oil in, pulsing the food processor a few times. Stir in salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.