Mint: Health Benefits and How To

Mint Health Benefits

(HealthCastle.com) Mint is delightful fresh green herb with many variations, all of which are very easy to grow at home. In fact, mint is so incredibly prolific that if you're not careful, it can take over your entire garden. Mint can also be bought fresh in the produce section of the grocery store. You may associate mint flavor primarily with chewing gum or mint candies, but these sugary (or artificially sweetened) products don't capture the appeal (or health benefits) of fresh mint, which can be used in everything from drinks to desserts to savory dishes to tea.

Nutritional Data for Fresh Mint

Two tablespoons of fresh peppermint contains:

  • Calories: 2 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 0.5 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Protein: 0.1 g
  • Fiber: 0.3 g
  • Glycemic Index: Low
  • Gluten Free: Yes

Health Benefits of Mint

Mint offers a lot of taste power without a lot of calories. Like other herbs, it packs some serious nutritional punch: It contains calcium, copper, calciumsopper, cfolate, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and riboflavin, as well as Vitamins A and C and antioxidants. Of course, it's an excellent breath freshener, but it has also been used in traditional remedies in many cultures (including in Egypt as early as 1,000 BC), and there's some scientific evidence to back up those traditional health applications.

Digestion

Peppermint oil has been shown to have beneficial effects for digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia, colic, and indigestion. Chewing on mint leaves or drinking peppermint tea can help to calm an irritated stomach and relieve nausea and gas. However, if you suffer from heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease, mint can actually exacerbate your symptoms, so give it a miss.

Allergies and Colds

Rosmarinic acid, one of the antioxidants in mint, has anti-inflammatory properties that may help ease seasonal allergies. Meanwhile, the menthol in mint can help to ease cold symptoms (think of it as nature's cough drop), especially when consumed as a tea.

How to Choose Mint at the Store

If buying mint to grow in your garden, be sure to talk to an expert who can help you choose the best mint plant for the conditions in your growing area, and give you some tips on keeping your mint plant contained (so it doesn't take over your yard). Mint is a perennial plant, so planting it once will get you lots of fresh mint year after year. If you don't have a garden, you can grow mint in a pot as long as you keep it well tended.

When buying cut mint at the grocery store, look for bright green leaves with no brown or slimy spots. Make sure you choose a flavor of mint that appeals to you, as there are huge differences in taste. Use the herb's smell as your guide.

Store cut mint wrapped in damp paper towel in the fridge, or hang the leaves to dry and use later for tea.

Ways to Include More Mint in Your Diet

  • Make fresh mint tea simply by steeping fresh mint leaves in hot water.
  • Add chopped mint to any dish that contains fresh peas for an excellent flavor combination.
  • Use chopped mint as a topping for ice cream.
  • Use mint as a great base for summer cocktails like mojitos, or create a mocktail by mixing mint and cucumber with soda water.
  • Add some fresh mint to salads for a surprising flavor boost.
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HealthCastle, founded in 1997, is the largest online nutrition community run by Registered Dietitians. Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or dietitian. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.