For most people, bay leaf only enters the scene when it’s called for in specific recipes. Rarely is this sought out as a creative addition or explored beyond its standard applications. However, this hesitation to pursue more variety with the bay leaf causes us to lose out on many wonderful attributes. In this piece, we’ll cover the diverse perks of bay leaves as well as how you can work them into your rotation.

What Are They?

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The bay leaf usually comes from the bay tree or bay laurel. These grow in Mediterranean region climates and are now cultivated in many places across the world. Even ancient Greek civilizations made use of bay leaves to add flavor and aroma to their cooking as well as crafted them into makeshift crowns and wreaths.

Since bay leaves are mostly consumed dried, the taste is often described as herbal and similar to oregano. This makes it a favored addition for infusing into flavorful dishes.

What Makes Them Healthy?

There are countless benefits to the bay leaf, many of which are seldom recognized. With very high antioxidant activity, bay is great for detoxification and guarding against free radicals. It’s also been noted as potentially instrumental in reducing cancer risk. Another helpful usage to keep in mind is the digestive assistance that bay leaf offers in soothing stomach discomfort.

Those with diabetes may find bay leaves particularly essential, as it can help lower blood sugar. Studies suggest that this is done by enhancing insulin function, and focuses on these effects for Type 2 diabetes specifically.

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If you suffer from headaches and migraines, bay leaves are also extremely useful for easing their severity. This is because it contains anti-inflammatory parthenolides, making it helpful for soothing overall irritation. In the same capacity, this makes bay leaf great to use topically to quicken the healing of wounds. In addition, it’s even more valuable for skin issues due to the antifungal and antibacterial nature of eugenol inside.

Another external perk of the bay leaf can be applied for respiratory problems. The oil of this plant is immensely useful for helping you breathe easy when inhaled. It will also aid in recovery, as the antimicrobial benefits get to the root of the problem.

Getting Your Own

Since you’ll most likely come across bay leaves in their dried form, it’s still important to know how they should look in this state. Look for whole dried leaves instead of ones which are broken or partial. In addition, they should be a medium olive shade of green, not brown. Try these Simply Organic Bay Leaf Certified OrganicEat Well Premium Foods Turkish Bay Leaves, and these Premium Whole Bay Leaves.

Generally, bay leaves aren’t hard to find. There’s no need searching around at specialty stores because you can usually get ahold of them at your usual grocery spot of choice. You can even find Organic Bay Leaf tea and in powders for smoothies, like this Organic Moringa Leaf Powder.

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Store them in an airtight container and the leaves should remain usable and hold their taste for at least a year or two.

Variety of Uses

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Traditionally, bay leaves are used whole in things like soups, pasta, and curries but are removed before consumption. This is not because they are toxic, but generally due to the fact that the texture can be uncomfortably rough to swallow and digest.

One simple and concentrated option is to brew a bay leaf tea. This can allow you to enjoy the benefits as well as inhale its soothing aromatherapy characteristics.

It’s possible to create endless dishes with bay leaves as either a subtle addition or more prominent element. Simmer it in some warming Seitan, Carrot, and Pumpkin Stew for the ultimate filling comfort. It also adds a depth of flavor to this Hearty 15-Bean and Vegetable Soup which is rife with aromatic dimension.

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mayim-bialiks-vegan-reuben-sandwich

One Green Planet 

Another great (and less traditional) option is to use it in Mayim Bialik’s Reuben Sandwich, complete with all the delicious fixings for a perfect bite. Or, try these Smoky Black-Eyed Peas as a simple yet protein-packed dish to take with you. You can also make this Beef-Style Stew, this Moroccan Tofu in Lemon-Olive Sauce Over Spaghetti, and this filling Braised Seitan Short Ribs in Spicy Chili Sauce.

Bay leaves are truly an unsung hero of the plant world. The medicinal and healing potential they provide, combined with a special culinary role, make them valuable diet additions. Don’t be afraid to pick them up and experiment more often!

For even more healthy food inspiration, download the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook as well! With more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, you can gain access to new delicious recipes every day.

Lead Image Source: Monika Grabkowska/Unsplash

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