You Can Dig It!

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March is National Nutrition Month. Everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices and developing helpful eating and physical activity habits. This month, try focusing on including more fresh or dry herbs and spices (with a spotlight on basil), and experience the benefits of gardening by getting outside!

Gardening is good for your overall health

A busy day in the garden can be a good form of exercise, which can in turn reduce stress. Growing and eating your own fruits and vegetables can have a positive impact on your diet. Also, going outdoors is good for your physical and mental health. A healthy dose of vitamin D that you receive from the sunshine outside increases your calcium levels, which then benefits your bones and immune system.

Spotlight on basil

Basil is an herb commonly used in both Italian and Southeast Asian cooking, and it comes in many varieties with different flavors, colors and leaf shapes. There are more than 60 varieties of basil, but some common types include: Sweet Basil, Genovese Basil, Thai Sweet Basil, Purple Basil and Holy Basil.  

More than a pop of color or flavor to your latest culinary creation, basil, and many other herbs, provides various health benefits. Basil is full of antioxidants. Basil is also an anti-inflammatory, it helps manage blood pressure and cholesterol, improves blood sugar levels, and boosts mental health. Improving mental health could then improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety. In addition, basil contains various vital nutrients such as calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Manganese, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc and Potassium.  

How to use basil in recipes

Using your own herbs, such as basil, is a great way to add versatility to your dishes. Adding herbs and spices is a great way to add flavor without adding salt to your food. Whether you have fresh or dried herbs on hand, both are great options! When cooking with herbs, keep in mind the ratio of fresh to dry — because dried herbs are often more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs, you need less if they’re dry. A general rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs equals 1 teaspoon of dried herbs. 

When cooking with fresh basil, it is best to add the leaves at the end of the cooking process, so the leaves keep more of their flavor. There are various ways you can use basil at home when making different dishes including, but not limited to, the following:  

  • Basil can be used to make homemade pesto or hummus. 
  • It can be used to finish off a pizza or pasta dish.
  • Basil can be blended into homemade soups or sauces.  
  • You can place it with vegetables in a lasagna.  
  • Basil can be mixed into a salad.  
  • Vanilla ice cream could be garnished with a few small basil leaves.  
  • Or you can add basil to your marinades or drinks. 

If you’re new to gardening, start small with a window plant. Over time, you will get more comfortable with gardening so you can plan a larger garden if you desire! Just think about the benefits from all the different herbs and spices you can plant. Start using more dried or fresh herbs today!


Plant a seed for a bountiful harvest

Kylie Mennel

Kylie Mennel, an enthusiastic and dedicated Registered Dietitian, is committed to tailoring nutrition services to meet the unique needs of the individuals she serves. At CICOA, Kylie excels in delivering personalized and person-centered counseling. Through attentive listening and thoughtful questioning, she provides medically tailored nutrition guidance to clients dealing with chronic conditions.

Prior to joining CICOA, Kylie contributed her skills to WIC, where she offered vital nutrition education to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, as well as infants and children up to age five facing nutritional risks. She also has served as the Registered Dietitian at Beech Grove Schools, where her responsibilities included menu development and nutrition education for students of all ages.

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