A bright green aromatic plant with a characteristic aroma, basil is a food with multiple properties: useful for the liver, the mood and a good digestive.
Basil is one of the best known, widespread and appreciated aromatic plants in our continent and the uses of basil in Italian cuisine are overwhelming proof of this. This small annual shrub belongs to the Lamiaceae family and is characterized by a very thin stem that can reach 50 cm in height and by large aromatic leaves with an intense green color.
This plant, known by the scientific name of Ocimum basilicum, is generally cultivated during the spring and summer season: it suffers, in fact, from temperatures below 10 ° C. The aroma of basil is what made it famous protagonist of several traditional Italian recipes: in the collective imagination, in fact, the famous spaghetti with tomato sauce or Neapolitan pizza are always accompanied by a very green leaf of… basil!
It is also difficult to forget the pesto alla genovese, a condiment for first courses based on oil, parmesan and basil. However, this plant is not only useful to complete our dishes, but it is important for its properties. In fact, we will see all the benefits of basil together.
Basil: characteristics and nutritional values
As we already anticipated, the basil plant does not only provide us with aroma and taste, but it is a plant with wonderful properties. Basil, in fact, contains numerous vitamins and mineral salts, despite a practically negligible caloric intake and a decidedly low glycemic index. It can therefore be added to all our dishes even in the case of diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity. It will give us an extraordinary mix of beneficial substances!
As you can see in the table below, this food is low in fats and sugars and the fats contained in it are mainly polyunsaturated, with a majority of omega-3 fatty acids, with important anti-inflammatory properties.
Nutritional values per 100g of fresh basil:
- Kcalories: 49 kcal
- Waterfall: 88 g
- Proteins: 3.1 gr
- Fat: 0.8 gr
- Carbohydrates: 5.1 gr
- Of which soluble carbohydrates: 5.1 gr
- Fiber: 5.2 gr
- Glycemic index: 5
- C vitamin: 26 mgr
- Thiamine: 0.08 mgr
- Riboflavin: 0.31 mgr
- Vitamin B6: 0.17 mgr
- Niacin: 1.10 ugr
- Folate: 85 ugr
- Soccer: 250 mgr
- Phosphorus: 37 mgr
- Sodium: 9 mgr
- Potassium: 300 mgr
- Iron: 5.5 mgr
- Zinc: 0.7 mgr
Basil: nutritional properties
It is truly amazing how many surprises such a small leaf can hold for us! We all know the advice to replace (when used in excess) the salt with spices and aromatic herbs, but perhaps not all of us know that these are very rich in numerous minerals. Below we will mention those most represented in basil.
- Iron: if we consumed 200 grams of fresh basil every day we would already have satisfied our daily iron need. This mineral, the deficiency of which causes anemia and poor oxygenation of the tissues resulting in chronic fatigue, is often lacking in our diet, especially in the case of a vegetarian or vegan diet. In these cases, taking a careful look at the use of aromatic herbs can be a witty solution;
- Calcium: this mineral is also well represented in basil. 100 grams of this aromatic herb contain 25% of the average calcium requirement. Consuming basil can therefore be important for the well-being of our bones, teeth and nails;
- Potassium: like all aromatic plants, basil is also rich in potassium and poor in sodium instead. Precisely for this reason in the case of hypertension or hydro-saline imbalance it is advisable to reduce the consumption of salt and increase that of aromatic herbs and spices for the seasoning of one’s dishes;
- Vitamin C: vitamin C is one of the vitamins present in large quantities in fresh basil, but which is completely eliminated when we use dry basil;
- Zinc: zinc is also present in good quantities in basil. 100 gr of fresh product contain about 7% of the quantity recommended daily by our guidelines;
- Vitamins of group B: all the vitamins of group B are present in fresh basil, but in particular we believe it is important to underline the conspicuous presence of riboflavin and folate. Fresh basil (not dry basil) contains about 20% of the total amount of folate recommended daily, while riboflavin is a fundamental vitamin in the metabolism, contained in good quantities, in addition to basil, only in some foods such as animal offal, brewer’s yeast, mushrooms and some cereals.
Basil: health benefits
Basil has always been known and used not only as a seasoning, but also for its numerous benefits on human health. We want to present below the properties of basil reported in the literature and investigated through scientific studies.
✓ Hypoglycemic and anti-diabetic properties
In this study conducted on mice (and which must therefore be confirmed in humans) the consumption of basil and its hypoglycemic properties were compared with the intake of metformin (a drug often used in case of insulin resistance). The intake of basil in this case was related to a reduction in fasting blood glucose and an increased glucose tolerance. This result could be due to the ability of basil to stimulate the production of glycogen and vice versa decrease glycogenolysis.
✓ Helps with heart and liver health
In the same study just presented, the intake of basil in doses of 100 mg / kg of body weight was also related to a decrease in blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
✓ Antifungal activity
Both basil and extracts of other aromatic herbs have been tested against some fungi, such as candida albicans. The basil extract in this case showed fungistatic and fungicidal activity.
✓ Good antibacterial
As this study shows, basil is not only useful in the case of fungi and fungi, but also in case of bacterial infections, such as those of the urinary tract and due to the bacterium Escherichia coli.
✓ Antioxidant property
Thanks to the presence of vitamin C, folates and anthocyanins, fresh basil has antioxidant properties. A study also confirmed that the components with antioxidant activity present in basil are stable.
✓ Excellent digestive
Since time immemorial the basil plant has been known for its digestive properties . In fact, since ancient times it was used as a remedy to calm intestinal pain, in case of aerophagia and as a remedy to improve digestion following large meals. In this regard, there are several herbal teas containing basil on the market.
✓ Anxiolytic and useful in breastfeeding
Furthermore, basil seems to have galactogenic properties and therefore can be useful in case of breastfeeding, if considered safe by your doctor and anxiolytic properties. In this study, in particular, the anxiolytic activity of the hydroalcoholic extract of basil and its essential oil was demonstrated. The effect was compared to that of the most common drugs, with very positive results.
Basil: some usage tips
Basil is an aromatic herb that we can all grow in pots during the summer months. By doing so we will be able to make the most of all its properties. During the winter months it is more difficult to find fresh basil even in the aisles of supermarkets: however, we can freeze the one harvested and grown during the summer months.
An alternative is to consume dry basil during the months of the year when it is not possible to grow this plant. Dry basil, unlike fresh basil, does not have the same aroma, but is able to flavor our dishes equally. The properties of dry basil are not the same: the minerals are more concentrated, while the supply of vitamins is lost. In particular, vitamin C and folate are not present even in trace amounts in dry basil.
This aromatic herb can be used to flavor all dishes and in the Italian tradition it is consumed above all in combination with tomatoes: datterini and basil salads, spaghetti with tomato and basil, pasta with pesto, marinara pizza with garlic and basil and so on. However, several innovative recipes call for basil as an ingredient in desserts or to flavor drinks.
Basil herbal tea: properties and how to make it
As we anticipated above, basil is an ingredient for digestive and purifying herbal teas. It can be used alone or in combination with other plants. The herbal tea with basil only is prepared by leaving a dozen leaves per cup (about 300ml) in hot water for 10 minutes, then filtered and drunk still hot.
Alternatively, we can use the leaves to make a digestive herbal tea by combining basil with a piece of fresh ginger, half a teaspoon of fennel seeds and a wedge of lemon, to be squeezed when the herbal tea is warm. In addition, for an effect that is also relaxing, you can add chamomile, linden or valerian. The advice, therefore, when it comes to basil, can be only one: experiment!
Basil: contraindications and potential negative effects
There are no contraindications of basil. It has been argued for some time that the presence of estragolo in basil made this aromatic herb a double-edged sword since this substance is considered mutagenic and carcinogenic. However, there have been no studies confirming this property of the food in humans.
Cultivation of basil in pots
As we anticipated, basil is a plant that we can easily grow at home and enjoy its properties whenever we want. For the cultivation of basil we can start from the seeds or from the seedlings, both easily available in a nursery.
Once you have purchased the basil plant (which is actually a set of small plants), the first thing to do is to transfer it into a larger pot, so as to allow the stems to grow better and more robust. Then proceed to extract the plant from the old pot and, before transplanting it, try to gently spread the individual plants from each other, so that they have more space to grow better.
As a soil you can use the universal one, while the exposure must be very bright but not in direct contact with the sun’s rays: basil, in fact, does not like direct sunlight and prolonged exposure could even burn its leaves. Watering must be frequent and regular, even daily, possibly in the morning.
A little secret to harvest basil: avoid tearing leaf by leaf but cut directly the stem you are interested in, leaving the first 3 or 4 leaves at the base. Doing so will allow the stem to grow again and the plant will develop mainly in width and not in height, becoming beautiful thick and lush!
Despite the great diffusion of basil in the Mediterranean basin, this plant seems to be native to India and its name would seem to come from the Greek and mean “royal”.