As the temperatures start to climb this summer, you might find yourself reaching for an extra beverage throughout the day. Water is one of the best ways to hydrate but if a burst of mouth-tingling flavor would add to the appeal of water, think about using fresh mint.
Mint used alone or in combination with other herbs, sliced fruits or vegetables can boost your enjoyment of water and reduce your sugar intake. If you’re looking for inspiration, try this mint infusion that can be served hot or cold.
- Start with a handful of clean, fresh mint leaves, tear them up and place in the bottom of a teapot or French press.
- Cover the leaves with 2 cups of boiling water and let this steep for 3-7 minutes.
Since mint comes in at least 30 varieties, you could “experi-mint” with flavors such as spearmint, pineapple mint or chocolate mint. The pleasing flavors of orange, ginger or cucumber slices combined with mint create several cool, fresh drink choices.
A better alternative
A 16-ounce sweet tea might douse your thirst with 9 teaspoons of added sugar while 16 ounces of lemonade can swamp you with up to 14 teaspoons of added sugar. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that added sugar be limited to 6 teaspoons a day for women or 9 teaspoons a day for men. Added sugars may, according to a 2009 AHA statement, increase your blood levels of triglycerides, a cardiac disease risk factor, while decreasing the desirable HDL.
A 2010 meta-analysis also concluded that > 1-2 sugar sweetened beverages per day increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 26% and risk for metabolic syndrome was increased by 20%. Sugars also add calories, which may contribute to weight gain. Finally, these sugar calories come without beneficial vitamins, minerals or fiber, which are important for good health. A cool mint-infused beverage can refresh you with no added sugars.
Mint provides small amounts of several B vitamins, Vitamins C and A and minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, magnesium and calcium. Grilled Chicken with Strawberry and Pineapple Salsa or Cucumber-Mint Raita will bring the delicious zing of mint to your meals. Mint goes well with fruit, salads, soups, carrots, marinades and salad dressing, so feel free to try it in many ways.
Easy to grow
If you enjoy using mint to flavor your food, it’s an easy herb to grow. It grows well in containers — a large diameter is more important than depth — and tolerates most conditions but, of course, it will need to be watered. If you plant it in the ground it will spread and come up again next year. In case you need more encouragement that mint will grow here in Michigan, 161,000 pounds of spearmint and peppermint oil, a value of $3.3 million, came from Michigan in 2013.
Take the next step:
- Read tips for adding the fresh flavor of basil.
- Learn how to cook with cilantro.
- Find out how to add parsley to your recipes.
- Check back next month to learn more about herbs and how they can be used in specific recipes.
Brenda Allison Fay, RDN, is a senior dietitian and cardiovascular nutritionist with the Cardiovascular Medicine Clinic at Domino’s Farms. With more than 15 years of experience as a dietitian, she provides nutritional counseling to help people reduce disease risk and improve health.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.