There are two kinds of people in this world.
Those who, every once in a while, complain about finding a leaf in their food, and those who are slightly more advanced in their culinary knowledge.
So let me set the record straight. If you find a leaf in your food, it’s probably meant to be there. It’s a food-leaf, you could say. More specifically, it’s a bay leaf. And it’s not a bad thing.
What are bay leaves?
Bay leaves grow on the laurel tree (Laurus nobilis) and can be used as a herb in various forms – whole or ground, fresh or dried.
They have a scent that reminds of oregano and thyme, and are often added to slow-cooked meals where they release flavour into the meal while cooking.
|Cooking with bay leaves|
According to masterclass.com fresh bay leaves are more bitter and pungent, while dried leaves have softer, herbal tones.
Therefore it is preferred in its dried form.
When cooking, you can use either. As a general rule, you can substitute one dried bay leaf with two fresh ones for a similar effect.
The flavour released by the dried leaf can vary depending on the time it spends simmering in hot liquid. After a few minutes it will give off hints of eucalyptus and menthol due to a chemical called eugenol.
After further simmering, these harsher flavours will make way for gentler herbaceous aromas.
Bay leaves are commonly used in bouquet garni, a bundle of herbs that is tied together and added to stews, soups, and the like during the cooking process.
They can be used for marinades, added to boiling water and used in pickling solutions. Last but certainly not least, in South Africa we neatly place them on top of our bobotie.
Health benefits of bay leaves
If it’s green, it’s usually good for you. Bay leaf has not been researched as extensively as we would’ve liked, but here are a few of its identified benefits:
- Some studies have suggested that bay leaf can help inhibit the growth of breast and colorectal cancer. Human studies to confirm the studies are still lacking though.
- A study published in 2009 indicated that bay leaf can help lower glucose and cholesterol levels in diabetes patients.
This is ascribed to the fact that bay leaves contain polyphenols, which are strong antioxidants.
There was, however, some evidence that it could interfere with blood sugar control, so while this is promising, more work needs to be done.
- A 2014 study found that bay leaves could reduce the amount of urease in your body. This helps prevent kidney stones from forming.
- A more recent study in 2021, done on rats, found that bay leaf helped with memory formation and improved cognitive deficits.
- Bay leaf is a source of vitamin A, B6 and C. These vitamins support a healthy immune system.
|Bay leaf tea|
If cooking is not really your thing and you are the type who might complain about a leaf in your food, how about trying something simpler, like a leaf in your tea?
Brewing an aromatic cup of bay leaf tea is an easy way to enjoy the above-mentioned health benefits. Bay leaf tea is also said to help settle an upset stomach.
Making bay leaf tea is super easy. Simply add two cups of water to two large bay leaves, and let it boil over high heat for at least three minutes.
If you want to, you can flavour your tea with milk, sugar, honey, lemon or anything else that you usually enjoy with your tea.
Can bay leaves help you lose weight?
While bay leaves are not a miracle cure for your bulgy bits, it can help in certain ways.
Bay leaves can aid in preventing weight gain as it has anti-fungal that help eliminate the growth of harmful bacteria such as Candida in the gut.
Candida overgrowth in the gut can have a detrimental effect on your metabolism, leading to weight gain, fatigue and digestive problems.
Furthermore, bay leaves are handy for improving digestion, as they stimulate the gastrointestinal tract and improve nutrient absorption in the body.
Optimal nutrient absorption creates a healthier environment in the body, therefore optimising it for weight loss.
How to grow bay leaf
If you have green fingers and a bit of patience, you can produce your own bay leaves.
You can plant laurel tree seeds, but it will take a few years for the plant to mature. Alternatively you can plant an already established tree, allowing you to harvest the leaves sooner.
The evergreen laurel enjoys moist soil and plenty of sun, and will require shelter from harsh weather conditions while young.
Yes, losing weight means you have to cut down on unhealthy food and start exercising. But there is room in your diet for bay leaves, just to give you a bit of a boost – and add some extra flavour to your life.