They say that American cuisine centers around two ‘spices’: salt and pepper. It’s so true. Salt and pepper are called for in every recipe, and they sit on the table at every restaurant. Often times, they are the only ingredients used for flavoring in American cooking. If you’ve grown up with the standard American diet, this might seem completely acceptable. Now, there’s nothing wrong with salt and pepper, but in other parts of the world, dishes are rich in colorful, fragrant herbs and spices. And these spices and herbs provide immense nutritional benefit. A well stocked spice pantry is a living pharmacy! The problem is, most of us have no idea how to use herbs and spices, or have trained our palettes to expect bland, salty tastes.
In fact, I recently saw a post online about outraged individuals who had found leaves in their burritos from a popular Mexican quick service chain. People were complaining to the company and posting photos about the obscene leaves in their food. These bay leaves were cooked in the rice quite purposefully, but to a woefully spice and herb ignorant public, the idea of a leaf in their food could only imply food contamination!
Jokes aside, I can’t stress enough that not only do spices and herbs flavor the food, but they provides a wealth of nutritional benefits. These are benefits that you do not want to miss out on, but for the spice and herb novice, the spice aisle of the grocery store can be very overwhelming. I suggest starting with something that you’ve heard of, probably tasted, but don’t use all that often. I thought that rosemary would be the perfect choice.
The health benefits of rosemary are outstanding. What really makes rosemary so incredible is its functioning as a methylation adaptogen. Adaptogens help the body find balance, or reestablish homeostasis. There are many different types of adaptogens. Rosemary’s adaptogenic qualities allow it to help balance methylation, or genetic expression (1). Our genes are in constant flux of expression and non-expression. Normally, the decision of which genes are ‘turning on’ and which genes are ‘turning off’ is the direct result of our lifestyle decisions. Good lifestyle choices turn on good genes and unhealthy lifestyle choices turn on less desirable genes (or turn off the good genes). Methylation adaptogens, such as rosemary, are pushing this process in our favor, and helping the body find balance in the methylation process and optimize our genetic expression. Rosemary helps you get the very best out of your genes. How incredible is that!?
Beyond balancing methylation, rosemary is a strong antioxidant, which helps the body fight free radical damage (2). It also has potent anti-inflammatory capabilities. In terms of cognitive health, Rosemary and the chemical compounds in rosemary, have been well studied for their anti-Alzheimer’s properties. It is understood that rosemary’s anti-inflammatory mechanisms, antioxidant capabilities, and metal chelation function allow rosemary to be a potent anti-Alzheimer’s disease herb, finding rosemary to reduce amyloid beta plaque formation, aggregation, and toxicity (3).
Yet all of these incredible qualities only skim the surface of the benefit that regular consumption of rosemary provide. While looking at trials and studies is helpful to show the mechanisms of action, nutrition science can never fully show us synergistic effect of whole foods working together. For example, Acciaroli, a small coastal Italian city is being investigated for their exemplary healthspan and longevity (4). Among other whole foods, the long lived inhabitants of this city eat a remarkable amount of rosemary. They eat it every day and 1 in 60 of this city’s inhabitants are over 90 years old, which puts the longevity of the United States to shame. Not to mention, they are living relatively disease free as well. This certainly offers a strong argument for including rosemary in the diet. But we have to wonder (and the researchers do), is it just the rosemary? Is the fact that they eat fresh caught, small fish with the rosemary? Is it their whole food diet, along with their active social lives? Is it all of these things and also the fact that they live in a warm, sunny climate? We may never know. But we do know that there is sincere benefit to including rosemary in the diet, and there’s absolutely no downside.
Rosemary is readily available in stores both fresh and dried. This recipe calls for fresh rosemary, but you could easily substitute dried at half the amount. This is an absolute powerhouse dish because you’re getting all of the benefits of rosemary along with the brain boosting fats from the salmon. To top if off, the fish is paired with a heaping plate of colorful roasted vegetables. With the vegetables, your getting the phytonutrients from every single color of the rainbow, along with a hefty dose of some other aromatic herbs (in this post we highlighted rosemary, but the other leafy aromatic herbs have a lot to offer as well!).
If you really want to take a leap and start using rosemary on a regular basis, grow it yourself. Rosemary is one of the easiest herbs to grow, and can live in a small pot near your kitchen window or on your windowsill. This way you’ll always have fresh, nutritious rosemary on hand and you’ll be balancing methylation and protecting your brain everyday!
This recipe serves 2