Nutrition – Minty fresh

Posted on 2 March 2015

… a regular nutrition series for vegans by Anastacia Sampson

We all know mint flavoured sweets are a common after meal treat. Have you ever questioned why mint? Why not lemon or citrus? Well for many years, the mint family has been known to assist us with digestion and relieve us from bloating after meals. Yes, mint is not only beneficial as a breath freshener!

Fresh garlic - photo courtesy of Skippy3e at Stock.XchngMint has a range of antioxidant properties. Each variety has unique qualities and may be used for a diverse range of ailments, let alone culinary uses. There is a common well known English combination of mint leaves and peas, pureed into a soup. Mint has a refreshing effect and is delightful in salads and summer cocktails. Mint is also used in yoghurts. The most common culinary type is spearmint, followed by peppermint.
Being such easy to grow herbs, it would be worth your time and effort to plant some fresh mint. This herb will serve you well in many ways.

There are about 20 species of the mint family and hundreds of combinations between these species. They come in a variety of shapes and aromas. There is chocolate mint, which has a subtle chocolate tone. There is the well-known peppermint, which is high in menthol. Menthol has been incorporated into modern medicines and oral hygiene products. It is menthol that has a powerful effect in being antispasmodic (ideal for easing abdominal cramping, as in Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and analgesic (giving relief from pain). Breathing in menthol may also relax us while improving alertness. In fact peppermint tea has a traditional use of being a prime remedy for the flu. Peppermint is at first warming and then cooling. Although peppermint is stimulating, it is inadvisable to use it in hot, inflamed digestive cases.

There is also spearmint, which has similar properties to peppermint yet it is gentler. This makes it more ideal for younger children, especially babies. Unlike peppermint, spearmint is more suited to being taken right after eating a meal. Spearmint stimulates release of digestive enzymes while soothing stomach upset. Nausea is also calmed down by taking spearmint.

Did you know catnip is a type of mint? This type of mint tends to attract cats as they are often seen fondly rolling on its leaves if the plant is in the area.

Lemon mint has a lemon like flavour and its oil has been used as an anti-depressant and to help ease stressful physiological reactions. There are an assortment of fruit flavoured mints, such as apple and pineapple. These can be quite tasteful.

Lemon balm is another member of the mint family, and is known as a natural antibacterial, antihistamine and calmative, and this is shared with many of the other types of mint. Ginger mint has been stated as being a natural rodent repellent.

It may be worth experimenting with the mint family. When you may feel drowsy after a meal or have gas and bloating with maybe cramping; do try some peppermint tea. Even applying the oil or a poultice over cramping muscles is useful. Mint can be bought in dried form or as fresh herbs, both are useful. Ideally planting your own is far more rewarding. Mint is known to favour damp, partly shaded areas and seems to thrive more in warmer conditions. This means it may flourish less during a frosty winter.

Take care, Anastacia

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