Fresh basil, vibrant green in color and with a delicate aromatic flavor, is an interesting addition to a wide variety of healthy recipes. In addition, it contains very low amounts of calories (a quarter-cup serving of chopped basil contains only two calories) and low levels of sodium. Use this herb to season meals as an alternative to salty or fatty seasonings. Basil leaves also contain some essential vitamins, so you should include them in your diet to provide benefits to your health.
Fresh basil leaves offer plenty of vitamin A. A quarter cup of chopped basil contains 559 IU of this vitamin, 24 percent of the daily recommended intake for women and 19 percent recommended for men, according to the Institute of Medicine. The main function of vitamin A in the body is to contribute to cell maturation. It also regulates the activity of genes, activating them when new cells need them to contribute to functional tissue. Consuming leaves of fresh basil for the contribution of vitamin A also benefits the eye, since low levels of this compound compromise your ability to night vision.
Consuming basil leaves also increases your intake of vitamin K. This vitamin activates the proteins in the body necessary for the growth of healthy tissue, such as the tissue of the cartilage, bones, stomach and lungs. It also plays an important role in helping the body form blood clots and works to prevent abnormal bruising, internal bleeding and blood loss. Each serving of fresh basil contains 44 micrograms of vitamin K, approximately one third of the daily recommended intake for men and half for women.
Lutein and zeaxanthin
Use fresh basil for cooking and you will also increase the intake of lutein and zeaxanthin, two beneficial nutrients. The eyes contain both nutrients, and depend on them to filter the light and prevent damage to the eyes due to exposure to harmful light. Your diet should include at least 6 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin per day, according to the American Optometric Association. In this way, you can reduce the risk of suffering macular degeneration related to aging. A quarter cup of fresh basil contains 0.6 mg, 10 percent of the 6 milligrams you need.
Tips for serving basil