WHAT WOULD MEDITERRANEAN CUISINE BE WITHOUT ITS POWERFUL HERBS AND SPICES?
Many herbs and spices have been an extremely important part of the diet in the Mediterranean region since antiquity and the Middle Ages. Aromatic herbs such as oregano and thyme were already considered well-known remedies in the Roman Empire, and rosemary and sage were considered noble plants and especially the Reserved for the upper class. Due to the mild climate that prevails throughout the Mediterranean, many of the classic herbs grow abundantly in gardens, but also in bushes and shrubs from the coast to high in the mountains and are either collected for immediate use or dried and stored for later use.
They are the real stars of the kitchen, because they are the ones who give the dishes their unique character and undoubtedly contribute to their excellent taste. When seasoning food, herbs and spices often go hand in hand. Technically, herbs are the leaves of a plant, while spices are derived from the roots, bark, and seeds. When the Mediterranean diet was first published in the form of the food pyramid, herbs and spices were not given the attention they deserved. Only years later, after the findings were updated, did they become popular and have played an important role ever since.
Stress, pollution, UV rays, smoking and an unhealthy diet burden our body every day and increase the formation of free radicals that can trigger oxidative stress. These increase the risk of various diseases by attacking healthy cells and rendering them non-functional. The more cells in an organ are damaged in this way, the worse for that organ. Diseases such as cancer, rheumatism, diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and allergies can occur. Antioxidants can protect the body’s cells from harmful influences by preventing the unwanted chemical reaction.
However, free radicals are not always and necessarily bad, and our body produces a lot of them in everyday activities. Our cells constantly need oxygen for energy production, and free radicals are also produced as a by-product, and the higher the energy production, the more so. The number increases, for example, in stressful situations, in sports or in the event of illness. There are also situations where free radicals are desirable and beneficial. Not only can they attack healthy cells, they can also specifically destroy pathogens such as aggressive bacteria or viruses or curb acute inflammatory processes.
In the meantime, numerous studies have been carried out on the enormous health aspects of antioxidants. While olive oil and wine were already known to help prevent cardiovascular disease, the benefits of herbs and spices have also been confirmed. Today we know that dill, peppermint or basil contain a relatively high amount of antioxidants and that oregano even has a concentration 42 times higher than apples have! Luckily, you can get a large part of it through food, so it is up to you to make a valuable contribution to your own health. The following herbs are a selection that should have a firm place in every diet and are best eaten fresh, as they then contain the most vital substances.
Read the full article in Issue 17