Mint – Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts & How to Select, Store & Prepare
Even if you’ve never seen a mint leaf in your life, chances are, you’re familiar with mint as a flavor. After all, it’s one of the most popular flavors of toothpaste, mouthwash, gum, cough drops, ice cream, and tea.
Mint is a classic, recognizable plant that has been used for its culinary, medicinal, and cosmetic benefits for over 3,000 years!
Originally from the Mediterranean, mint played a major role in ancient life. It was especially popular among the ancient Greeks who believed that the god of the underworld, Pluto, fell in love with a nymph named Minthe. Out of jealousy, his wife Persephone stomped on Minthe.
To save her, Pluto turned her into a plant that emitted an appealing fragrance when crushed.
Meanwhile, in ancient Egypt, mint was so valued for its medicinal properties that it was used as a form of currency!
Today, we may not trade mint for goods and services, but its culinary and medicinal benefits are still highly regarded. Even though mint is an herb, it is often considered to be a superfood and can play a crucial role in your health and diet.
The Top Health Benefits of Mint
Mint aids digestion
The active oil in mint, menthol, is known for its amazing gastrointestinal benefits. When consumed, the mint produces better bile secretion and bile flow that helps to quickly break down food, making digestion easier. It also relieves gas and bloating.
If you’re experiencing indigestion or stomach pain, having a cup of mint tea may be the solution!
Mint improves the respiratory condition
Those suffering from nasal congestion, asthma, and difficulty breathing can greatly benefit from mint. Have you ever noticed that cough drops and vapor rubs often come in mint flavors and scents? It’s because of mint’s amazing anti-inflammatory properties that relieve respiratory irritation and make breathing easier.
Simply inhale menthol by crushing mint leaves, making mint tea, or using a diffuser with menthol essential oil.
Mint promotes good oral health
It’s no coincidence that so many toothpaste, flosses, gums, and mouthwashes are made with a mint base. Mint has amazing antibacterial properties that prevent the growth of bacteria and plaque in the mouth. That’s why mint products are so good at keeping your mouth clean and getting rid of bad breath!
Mint is a natural breath mint; chew on a mint leaf for great-smelling breath.
Buying Mint: What to Look For
Mint is one of the first plants to sprout in the spring in cooler climates. In warmer climates, it grows year-round. It is a very hardy plant that does just as well on large farms as it does in small, windowsill herb gardens.
Fresh mint can be found at your local grocery store in a small bushel or pre-packaged. Whichever type you choose to buy, make sure you look for mint with a vibrant color and perky leaves. Mint that’s wilting or that has an uneven color is past its prime and should be avoided.
Another way to tell that mint is fresh is to give it a sniff. Fresh mint smells strong and aromatic.
The best way to keep mint fresh once you’ve brought it home is to store it in a plastic bag or container in the fridge. With this method, the mint should last for about 5 days. If you prefer to keep your mint out of the fridge, place the leaves stem-down in a jar of water. They won’t stay fresh for as long, however, and will likely start to wilt after 3 days.
Cooking With Mint
This light, fragrant herb can add freshness to hundreds of meals including roasted chicken, fruit smoothies, and everything in between. It’s the perfect ingredient for adding an extra zing to salsa verde or to a fish rub. It’s a great topping for pasta and salads. It’s a classic sidekick to meat dishes. And let’s not forget how well mint works in cocktails.
If you want to compliment your meat dishes with something cool and refreshing, try making a simple mint yogurt side sauce. Just combine a chopped garlic clove, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, 2 cups of plain greek yogurt, and 1 cup of chopped mint.
Another refreshing mint recipe is mint and fruit soda. Put the juice of two limes, lemons, or oranges into a bowl, then add ½ cup of mint leaves, 1 cup of white sugar, and a handful of berries of your choice. Muddle the ingredients together until combined, then stir in 3 cups of carbonated water until combined.
No matter how you choose to use mint, you’ll have to prepare it first. Preparing mint is incredibly easy. Just run the mint under cold water and gently pat with a paper towel to dry. Now, you’re ready to cook your next great minty meal!