The smell of our food is inexorably linked to our enjoyment of it. In fact, taste and smell are the two most directly linked of our senses. Aroma is the essence of food, but as well as making food taste good, it can also enhance our sense of well-being.
While the concept of aromatherapy has become something of a catch-all phrase for a wide range of healing techniques, such as massage and steam inhalation, which involve the use of highly concentrated oils derived from plants and flowers, rarely if ever do we think of our food as having aromatherapeutic properties.
The health benefits of flavourful food are well known in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. While it is unlikely that you will be eating herbs and spices in anything like medicinal quantities, many have been shown to be concentrated sources of antioxidants, and if taken regularly in great enough quantities, some can have medicinal effects. Cinnamon, for example, helps regulate blood sugar; in Germany, sage is licensed as a standard medicinal tea to treat gastrointestinal upsets and night sweats.
Taste may also be important to feelings of satiety and therefore be influential in managing overeating and obesity. There is evidence to suggest that foods that are flavourful, taken in small bites, may increase a person’s satisfaction with a meal and help regulate food intake.
Although it is an area that would benefit from more study, smell disorders have been linked with many health problems including obesity, and one small study found that in 20 per cent of participating children the ability to fully detect the aromas of their food was impaired.
Another study found that those who had the most tastebuds, and therefore the greatest sensitivity to food tastes/smells, had the lowest body mass index.
One reason why we eat so many fried foods may be because frying can bring out the complex, satisfying aromas of food (for more on food flavours, see this extract from Eric Sclosser’s book Fast Food Nation). But there are other, healthier ways. So if your food preparation rarely goes beyond salting and peppering consider these alternatives and remember – whatever you are eating, don’t overcook, and chew fully and slowly to release all the beneficial aromas and flavours.
Herbs will add subtle flavours to almost any dish. Unlike spices, which often come from far away, herbs can be grown easily in your garden and picked fresh when you need them. Always use the fresh herb and tear, don’t cut the leaves. Gently crushing the leaves by scrunching them up in your hand or lightly bruising them using a mortar and pestle is a good way to releasing their aromas.
Basil fortifies the digestive and nervous systems and can be a good remedy for headaches and insomnia. It is also a good diuretic. When using it in cooking, opt for the fresh leaves and wait until the very last moment before adding them to your dish. Try scattering it on tomato salads, in soups and to egg, rice and mushroom dishes. Make your own pesto sauce, or put some fresh leaves into olive oil for a pungent salad dressing (don’t worry if the leaves turn black).
Dill has a sharp/sweet taste, somewhere between mint and aniseed. It is a natural bactericide, diuretic and digestive soother and can be effective against cystitis and other bladder infections. Use it liberally with seafood, especially salmon. Sprinkle it onto salads or lightly steamed vegetables especially new or baked potatoes. You can also add the seeds to stews, soups or as a topping on cooked vegetables or in rice dishes.
Read More : http://www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/food_and_drink/560000/aromatherapy_in_your_kitchen_part_one_cooking_with_herbs.html