With its distinctively spicy taste and invigorating scent, mint is often an ingredient in gum, candy or tea, but people also eat it fresh. Fresh mint leaves add flavor and nutrition to many different recipes, and chewing on whole leaves may have certain health benefits and ward off some medical conditions.
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Vitamins and Minerals
Fresh mint, including spearmint and peppermint, contains several key vitamins and minerals you need for good health, though they're not present in huge amounts. For example, fresh mint contains trace amounts of iron, a mineral you need to make red blood cells. Mint also has small amounts of fiber, vitamin A and potassium.
One of the primary benefits of fresh mint is that it contains potent antioxidants. Peppermint, for example, has perillyl alcohol, which might stop the formation or spread of cancer, according to Michael T. Murray and Joseph E. Pizzorno, authors of "The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods." Peppermint also contains another antioxidant called rosmarinic acid, which can help prevent and treat certain allergies.
Eating fresh mint leaves might help promote digestion, according to Murray and Pizzorno. Mint, most notably peppermint, also acts as a carminative, which means it can help ease gas and its associated symptoms. Peppermint is often used as a digestive aid, but the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes that very little research has been done to prove its effectiveness.
Fresh Mint In Your Diet
Chop fresh mint leaves and scatter them over a tossed green or grilled chicken salad. The leaves will add trace amounts of nutrients as well as a bold flavor. Stir chopped mint into meatballs and serve the cooked meat on leafy greens with a drizzle of sesame or olive oil.
Add chopped mint leaves to brewed iced tea or lemonade or stir them into fruit salad. If you want to use mint for nausea, talk to your doctor first, especially if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, cautions the National Institutes of Health. Peppermint can exacerbate symptoms of GERD, because it can cause stomach acids to come back up the esophagus.