Summer is here and that means it is time to prepare our palettes for the herby deliciousness that is fresh basil! From pesto dip to cocktails, basil is not only versatile, it is fantastic for your health – even helping to manage blood glucose and inflammation levels! Before we hit the recipes, let’s review why basil is so good for the body, especially for those with diabetes.
Researchers from the Department of Home Science at Azad University in India found that basil extract helps to reduce the amount of glucose that circulates in the blood, thereby reducing inflammation and the risk of potential organ and nerve damage due to high blood sugar. Basil also helps to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, two other contributors to metabolic syndrome, for which diabetics are at an increased risk of developing.
The free-radical fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals in basil help to protect DNA, as well as preventing cellular mutations. They help to naturally prevent cancer, while slowing the progression of cancer that is already present. (Bonus – antioxidants also help slow the aging process!)
The powerful essential oils contained in basil help to fight inflammation, resulting in lower risk of disease throughout the body like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
Speaking of anti-inflammatory powers, basil can help improve blood flow by helping the muscles that control blood vessels to contract and relax more regularly. This leads to lower, more consistent blood pressure. Basil also helps to prevent the aggregation of blood platelets, helping to prevent the development of blood clots, leading to a reduction in risk for cardiac arrest.
Now that we’ve handled the heart, let’s address the gut! Basil helps to restore the body’s proper pH level and get it in balance. This improves digestion and immunity by encouraging healthy bacteria to grow and multiply within the gut, while decreasing harmful bacteria that can cause illness and disease.
Speaking of bacteria, basil packs a punch to strains of harmful bacteria, even those that are resistant to treatment with antibiotics. Not only is basil antibacterial, it is also antimicrobial – helping to combat various forms of viruses, molds, and yeast.
Wow! With all of those health benefits, we bet you’re wondering “How can I fit basil into as many recipes as possible?” Great news – you’ve got plenty of options!
Let’s start with the classic that comes to mind when most of us think of basil – pesto! Pesto is a sauce made by combining fresh basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Parmesan) cheese. Pesto is traditionally found on pasta, but also makes a delicious salad dressing or dip!
Cooking up a big, meaty steak on the grill? Or perhaps a piece of salmon or chicken? Why not top your protein with a pat of pesto butter?
Start with room-temperature butter, then mix in chopped dry basil leaves, and a little salt and pepper. Roll the mixture into a log inside a sheet of wax paper, then wrap the wax paper in a sheet of aluminum foil, making sure the log of butter is nice and tight. (It’s going to resemble cookie dough.) Refrigerate until very cold, then cut off slices as needed and place them on top of your sizzling hot meat of choice. (If you don’t finish the whole log of butter in one go, this compound butter freezes quite well, too!)
Think of mozzarella cheese when you think of basil in a salad? While the Caprese salad is a classic (and incredibly delicious) combination, basil works well in all manner of salads. Simply fold basil leaves into your spring mix, or add to arugula for a sweet and peppery combination. Top with a shallot or lemon vinaigrette, or simply drizzle with olive oil.
Why stop with eating your basil when you can drink it, too? Yes, a refreshing strawberry basil moscow mule is the perfect way to celebrate summer. Not into alcohol? Gently muddle a basil leaf in the bottom of a glass, then top with lemonade! You still get that delicious summer flavor but without the booze!
By adding basil to your favorite food and drink recipes this summer, the incredible herb will be a seasoning staple in your kitchen in no time! Whether you buy it at the grocery store or grow your own, basil is the perfect ingredient for fantastic flavor and better health!