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9. HERBS IN FOOD AND NUTRITION
In this module we cover the following topics:
Culinary herbs The nutritional value of herbs Beneficial use of herbs as a food supplement
We have learnt about common ailments observed in women and children,
and found how herbal medicines offer a better therapy alternative for these.
We have also seen the widespread use of herbal products for skin care and
personal care and so on. Those past modules identify just how versatile
Herbs can also be used as food supplements or in cooking. These herbs will
make your food healthier. Plus, they also help maintain your diet,
simultaneously helping you maintain a healthier body.
On the other hand, the market is flooded with diet pills containing ‘herbals’
that claim to be effective in weight-loss. Be cautious when purchasing and
endorsing these, as they are not proven and there have been reports about
In this module we will discuss the use of herbs in food and nutrition. We
will also distinguish between safe and proven herbal food (or dietary or
nutrition) supplements and the so-called herbal diet pills, which could prove
HERBAL FOOD SUPPLEMENTS
Herbal supplements offer a good alternative to using herbs as ingredients in
cooked food. Sometimes the cooking process can eliminate the natural
properties within the herb. The natural powers from herbal supplements can
be made available to the body without any possibility of the properties
Your client will benefit from taking herbal supplements as they aid the body
by restoring depleted resources within the body. In turn, the body will be
better prepared to fight common infections, diseases and health hazards.
Herbal supplements are different to the herbal diet and food supplements.
They are safe, with minimal side effects, whilst diet supplements are
artificial and can produce unwanted side effects.
Many of your clients will benefit from making herbal supplements a part of
their everyday diet. They will provide a good source of medical self care
and can be used either as a source of preventative medicine or for treating a
Your first trip to buy herbal supplements at a health store may be quite
confusing as there will be a wide variety of brands and types of supplement.
Take your time to decide which ones would best suit you, or your clients. A
good tip is to first learn the basic types of supplements that are available to
Vitamins are an essential requirement for your client’s normal metabolic
functioning. They are found in small amounts in many foods.
Without a sufficient intake of vitamins, your client may be more susceptible
to deficiency diseases. Clients who have a low intake of vitamin C for
example may develop scurvy. Degenerative disease can also be prevented
by a sufficient intake of vitamins. This is due to vitamins being antioxidants
We all have a small amount of minerals present within our bodies. Minerals
only make up 4% of our body weight. However, just this small amount is
essential to a number of vital processes within the body. For instance, these
inorganic substances are vital to bone formation, and to normal functioning
of the heart and digestive system. Minerals are found in the earth’s crust and
A number of minerals have been linked to the prevention of cancer,
osteoporosis, and other chronic illnesses.
Herbal products are used by increasing amounts of people to help treat mild
health problems and in the maintenance and attainment of good health.
Many herbs contain a number of active constituents that work in
conjunction to produce therapeutic benefits.
Herbal products come from a variety of plant based sources. For example,
the plant’s leaves, roots, stems, buds, barks, and flowers are all used for a
variety of remedies. These herbs can be used in their natural form or in the
Capsules Powders Tinctures And other formulations
Nutritional supplements are obtained from a number of sources. For
example one source of nutritional supplements is fish oils which possess the
Many nutritional supplements are found in fruits and vegetable. These
nutrients are called flavonoids, lignans, indoles and carotenoids. They work
to lower the risk of disease. They are also able to reduce the strength of
Tick the box that is next to the most appropriate answer from the options
Which of the following is not true for food supplements?
Minerals are essential for a wide range of vital processes, from basic
bone formation to the normal functioning of the heart and digestive
Today more and more herbal supplements are being used to enhance the
Vitamins are unrelated organic substances that occur in many foods in
small amounts but are not necessary for the normal metabolic
Nutritional supplements, such as Flavonoids, lignans, indoles, and
carotenoids are compounds found in fruits and vegetables that work to
lower the risk of disease and may alleviate symptoms of some ailments.
The answer to this exercise can be found at the end of the module.
HEALTHY DIET AND DIET PLANS
It is difficult to determine what the ideal diet is. This is because everyone’s
dietary needs change at different stages of their life, plus their dietary needs
may vary due to different disease that they may be suffering. Everyone has
unique genetic tendencies toward certain diseases, so food components such
as salt or fats pose different risks for different people.
Additionally, when considering a client’s diet, you also have to take into
account any food intolerances and allergies. Plus, factors such as culture,
family background, moral beliefs and religion should be considered. Many
different clients will have different ways of preparing similar foods and will
However, even though everyone has different dietary needs, there are some
general principles that can be taken into account when creating a diet. The
food pyramid outlines the foods that should be eaten and those that should
There are several food pyramids that you can refer to. There are the Asian,
Mediterranean and Latin American diet pyramids, the US Department of
Agriculture pyramid and the Vegetarian diet pyramid.
Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Reduce saturated fat and cholesterol. Limit sugar and salt. Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, if at all. Eat moderate-sized portions. Include physical activity in your daily routine.
If you can persuade your clients to keep to a diet containing natural whole
food, pure drinking water, and a minimum of foods full of sugar and fat
then they will benefit greatly. They will build stronger bones and tissues,
and will have a greater ability to fight disease and pain.
There are lots of functional foods on the market, and a great number of the
population eat them during a normal day. For example, many people will
begin the day with toast that is enriched with folate which protects the heart.
They may also drink orange juice, which contains a good source of calcium
for healthy bones. Or perhaps they’ll drink some apple juice with Echinacea
Nowadays, there are more and more foods being marketed as ‘fortified with
herbs’. You should explain to your clients that some companies will use
wording like this to sell the product as a gimmick. Many of these products
If functional foods continue to grow, then there is a danger that people will
be less bothered about maintaining a healthy diet. They will assume that by
eating functional foods containing one or two nutrients they will be living
healthily. Unfortunately this will not be the case.
HERBAL SUPPLEMENTS – DRUG INTERACTIONS
You have to take care when using herbal supplements alongside medicinal
drugs, as some will create a negative reaction.
Here is a list of some commonly known interactions for herbs that may be
What can occur if Garlic and Ginkgo Biloba are taken with drugs that are
The answer to this exercise can be found at the end of the module.
Have you completed the following exercises?
Tick the boxes when you have completed the exercises. When you have
done all the exercises you can do the assignment that follows.
1. You understand the requirements of a healthy diet.
2. You know of a wide range of culinary herbs and you are aware of their
3. You have thought about the nutritional value of herbs.
4. You know about using herbs as a food supplement.
Mrs. Rock’s doctor has recommended that she seek advice from you
regarding her diet. Mrs. Rock eats too much food containing carbohydrates,
and often indulges in fatty foods. If she continues to eat the way she does
She would like you to tell her how she can eat more healthily; she wants to
know how she can incorporate herbs into her meals. By doing this, her
doctor believes that her health will be vastly improved.
What food would you recommend to Mrs. Rock, and more importantly what
herbs should she try to use when cooking.
Write your advice in the form of a short essay (around 400 words).
When you have completed the assignment send or email it to your tutor.
If you email your assignment, make sure you include your name and
assignment number at the top of your work.
Well, that’s the end of the extract. If you want to know more, you’ll have to
We look forward to welcoming you on to the course, and helping you
become a herbalist.
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