The bay leaf has been used as one of the most popular herbs around the world for thousands of years. Bay leaves grow in many different continents that include Asia, North America and Europe, and have become a common staple in the culinary world. These leaves are packed with some helpful natural chemicals that include essential oils, as well. Thus, they are extremely helpful as both an herb and a spice.
The most common way that people get bay leaves these days is through crushing them and adding them into food. If you’ve been around crushed bay leaves when cooking, you could probably spot the smell right away. Some people may have eaten plenty of bay leaves without even knowing it. No matter how you’re adding bay leaves into your diet, you’ve experienced some great health benefits because of it. Should you be adding more, though? Let’s take a look at the nutritional breakdown and proven health benefits that you get from bay leaves.
Nutrition of Bay Leaf
There isn’t much that can be said when you’re taking only two grams of bay leaf, so we’ll kick it up to a total of eight grams, or four tablespoons. In each of those servings, you’re getting just around 20 calories, with a half gram of protein and eight percent of your recommended dietary fiber. In the vitamin department, vitamin B6 and vitamin A stand out with around 10 percent of the recommended daily value.
Other vitamins that you’ll be getting in slightly smaller amounts include vitamin C and folate at around five percent of daily value. There’s not much fat in bay leaf with less than half of a gram, and no cholesterol. As for your minerals, manganese is the standout here with more than 30 percent daily value, while iron is around 20 percent. Calcium and magnesium are also present between five to 10 percent, while other minerals such as zinc, potassium and phosphorus can be found in smaller amounts.
Diabetic Management and Heart Healthy
A major study that was conducted back in 2008 concluded that people who suffer from type 2 diabetes can see a huge benefit by using bay leaves on a daily basis. The study took four groups of diabetics and gave them one, two or three grams of bay leaf on a daily basis for 30 days. Each of the groups saw a reduce in their glucose levels, while the groups also saw a drop in their LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise in the HDL (good) cholesterol.
Triglycerides also dropped in the groups that didn’t receive a placebo, so researchers were able to conclude that bay leaves did have a specific effect for diabetics. Even those that don’t have diabetes can see a benefit thanks to those heart healthy options. Another reason that bay leaves are good for the heart is because they contain compounds known as caffeic acid and rutin, which strengthen the hearts of the walls.
Most of the foods that we’ve looked at that have had a huge benefit for digestive health usually contain a lot of fiber. While bay leaves are a decent source, they don’t contain all that much unless you’re eating more than the suggested amount. The way in which bay leaves benefit your digestive system is by eliminating many of the toxins that are found in the system. Because of that, bay leaves are used as both a diuretic and can induce vomit in dire cases.
If you’re suffering from everyday minor problems because of a poor diet that include constipation, diarrhea and acid reflux, eating bay leaves can help you with that. With the enzymes found within bay leaves, food that you eat will be broken down easier, alleviating some of those pesky problems.
A lot of people like to try home remedies when they get ill, trying to find a way to power through a cold, flu or simply just a sore throat. Bay leaves have proven to be one of the more effective home remedies when soaked in water and placing it on your chest (for coughing) or drinking it in water (for battling infections). While bay leaves help those minor problems, you can also avoid some serious illnesses down the road.
Bay leaves are packed with antioxidants that can be hard to find in other forms (such as catechins and linalool). These antioxidants work with your body to fight off free radicals. Free radicals can attack your body’s cells’ DNA, causing illnesses such as cancer. One antioxidant (parthenolide) was also shown to be especially effective in lowering your chances of cervical cancer.
In terms of keeping up your appearance, bay leaves are certainly among the most helpful herbs you can find. Starting with your skin, the antioxidants found within bay leaves again attack free radicals. Those free radicals can also do damage to your skin, causing you to have early signs of aging such as wrinkles. Bay leaves are used to both make you look younger while also getting rid of skin infections.
Your hair is another part that can look better thanks to bay leaves, which are found in more beauty products these days. Keeping your scalp free of dry and dead skin will allow for better hair growth, coming in thicker and faster. The best way to get the bay leaf benefit for your hair is to take the leaves, dip them and water and rub them along your scalp after using shampoo.
Many of us have trouble getting ourselves to relax during the day and getting to sleep at night. Bay leaves might end up being the solution for both of those problems. Studies have shown that people who consume bay leaves before going to sleep (by way of extract oil in water) were more likely to fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night.
As for your life during the day, the compounds of bay leaves have been shown to reduce stress hormones. People that use bay leaves typically use the oil as a form of aromatherapy to help lower their stress levels. Plus, the joy is a fairly pleasant one, which will help your house and even keep insects away.
Summing it Up
With all of its great benefits and the fact that it’s so easy to come by, is there anything negative that we can say about bay leaf? One thing you’ll really want to avoid is eating an entire intact leaf without cooking it (something you won’t have to worry about when buying from a supermarket). The reason for this is because bay leaf can’t be digested, so it can cause some serious harm to your digestive system, including your throat.
That’s the only thing that the average person will want to avoid, while those who are diabetic or have an upcoming or recent surgery will want to speak with a doctor before using bay leaf or any other herb. Just make sure to use bay leaf in small doses and not only will things be fine, but you’ll start seeing some fantastic health benefits. At less than a dollar per ounce in the United States, it’s hard not to take advantage.