It’s not just a garnish.
If you’re only using mint in your mojitos, you might want to reevaluate this fresh-tasting herb. The benefits extend far beyond the bar, and yes, that includes a good julep. Here’s why this classic flavoring deserves a spot in your garden — and on your plate — this year.
1. It can help with tummy troubles.
Peppermint oil has been linked with reducing pain, stomach upset, and other symptoms of IBS, largely because of the anti-spasmodic effects of methanol found in the stuff. That said, most of these benefits have been seen in capsule form — not food — so check with your doc before starting any supplement regimen. Regardless, the soothing properties of peppermint tea may lend a hand in addition to helping you stay hydrated (and warm!) during dry winter months.
2. It’s anti-inflammatory.
Like other plant-based foods (veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, and 100% whole grains), mint contains phytonutrients with antioxidant-like properties, which may reduce cellular damage caused by oxidative stress. What’s more, the primary anti-inflammatory compounds of mint may limit the initiation of chronic inflammation.
And since one food can’t exactly undo the effects of an otherwise poor-quality diet: Use mint for cooking and flavoring with veggie-heavy, plant-based meals and snacks — not solely for health benefits.
3. It’s got immune-boosting benefits.
In addition to its antioxidant activities, 1/4 cup of flavorful spearmint provides nearly half of your daily needs of vitamin A. The plant-based form of the vitamin helps protect your cells from damage by scavenging free radicals that can cause damage to organ tissue, helping reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Another possible benefit: Compounds found in peppermint leaves have been linked to inhibiting enzymes that promote tumors.
4. It may help protect against harmful bacteria.
Some research has linked the anti-bacterial compounds in mint’s essential oils — carvone and limonene — to helping reduce your risk of potentially harmful bacteria, both the type found in affected food, and within your GI tract. What’s more, some early research has linked these compounds to helping reduce risk of foodborne illness when used in food storage and preservation. Generally, the wide array of immune-protecting nutrients found in different types of herbs and spices (including mint!) have been studied for their possible benefits in protecting our immune systems from disease-causing disruption, but with that in mind: More research still needs to be done to fully evaluate how impactful these substances are on protecting immunity. For now, adding mint to meals and snacks shouldn’t replace any of your current food safety practices, but they may enhance them!
5. It can help you cut back on sodium.
Cutting back on salt without using flavor requires complementary herbs and spices to help boost flavor profile — and mint is no exception! Using mint on anything from veggie (or fruit!) salads, fish, meat, and poultry can help limit the amount of salt you add to food without sacrificing taste, raising cost, or increasing recipe time.