More Herbs Less Salt for a Healthy Gut
More Herbs Less Salt is an American Awareness day on 29th August.
It is well recognised that we should be careful with our salt consumption. When we talk about salt, we are referring to sodium chloride, common table salt. The recommended salt consumption over and above the salt we find in food is just 1 teaspoon.
Salt (sodium) is recognised to be a contributor of high blood pressure as the body will hold on to additional fluid to dilute the sodium in your blood, this increases the pressure. Processed foods can increase the sodium consumption in your diet, and there is no need to add salt to your food most of the time.
Now – new research has shown that a diet high in salt can damage one of the important families of beneficial bacteria – Lactobacillus species. We know that a high sugar and high processed diet damages the delicate ecosystem of beneficial bacteria, and now we can add salt to this list too.
Lactobacillus bacteria produce a compound called butyrate that provides fuel to other important gut bacteria and provides fuel to the gut epithelial cells that forms a robust gut barrier. And if there is a damaged gut barrier and less fuel for the good bacteria, it can allow space for pathogens to take a hold.
Many people add salt to increase the flavour of food. But did you know that whilst herbs add flavour to your dishes, they also have many health benefits too?
Let’s look at five common herbs and the common health benefits they can deliver to your gut:
Commonly found in an English garden and adds lovely flavour to all types of roasted dishes (meats and vegetables). Rosemary has antioxidant properties, protecting your cells from damaging free radicals. It also has antimicrobial properties, so acts as a great gut protector. It can aid digestion by gently stimulating appetite and the secretion of digestive enzymes and bile. Steep the herb in hot water and sip after a meal.
It’s used in most tomato based dishes. Like rosemary, not only is it antibacterial but also antifungal, anti-viral and antiparasitic. This means it has a wide-reaching impact on the gut to destroy harmful pathogens and can have a positive effect when there has been no stool testing to determine what may be out of balance.
Oregano has even been shown in one study to have anti-microbial properties against E. coli, that causes food poisoning. Be careful with potent oil of oregano, as too much can destroy the beneficial bacteria that we want to protect. More is not necessarily better!
Another popular English herb that can grow abundantly in the UK cooler climate. Chewing mint after a meal can help relieve bloating, cramping and other gastrointestinal discomfort. The oil can help relieve spasms associated with IBS. Try a tea with fresh mint leaves. This is far more effective than a standard mint teabag. The benefits come from the fresh volatile oils in the leaves (put a saucer over the cup to trap the oils).
So often used as a garnish with dishes yet ignored as part of the meal. I always eat it and suggest you do the same!
Parsley helps to freshen your breath (useful after a garlic heavy meal). It helps to gently stimulate bile flow and stomach acid secretions necessary for different stages of the digestive process. It’s also a great source of vitamin C and iron (due to its rich green colour) that work synergistically together for optimal iron absorption.
Basil has a beautiful aromatic flavour that pairs well with sweet and savoury dishes. These days it is as common to see it in Mediterranean dishes as deserts like roasted fruit. Like many other herbs, it has anti-inflammatory properties, including inflammation in the bowel. And like the herbs mentioned above it also has anti-microbial/fungal/viral properties helping to inhibit the growth of pathogens that can lead to a dysbiotic picture. This herb has also been shown to have a positive anti-microbial affect against E-Coli.
My recommendation is to add lots of herbs to your dishes, as collectively they provide so many overlooked vitamins and minerals and health benefits. They are easy to grow, too (either in pots on a window sill or in garden beds close to the kitchen).
As you add more herbs to your dishes, the temptation to add salt should naturally diminish.
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