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Nutritious & Delicious Oregano

Oregano has been recognized for its aromatic properties since ancient times. Its name, which is derived from Greek and means "mountain of joy," was considered a symbol of joy and happiness. Oregano is popularly used in Mediterranean and Spanish cooking. This aromatic herb was scarcely known in the United States until the early 20th century when soldiers returning from Europe brought this aromatic and flavorful herb back to the United States.

Oregano is valued not only for its strong flavor and pleasant aroma, but for its health benefits as well. This fragrant and delicious herb contains volatile oils that have shown to inhibit growth of bacteria. It also contains phytonutrients that function as antioxidants to prevent oxygen-related damage to cell structure throughout the body. Research shows that "...On a per gram fresh weight basis, oregano has demonstrated 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries." Oregano is an excellent source of vitamin K and a very good source of manganese, iron, dietary fiber, and calcium. In addition, oregano is a good source of vitamin E and tryptophan. It's one of the tastiest and healthiest herbs to enjoy!

When purchasing oregano, it is best to purchase fresh leaves instead of the dried variety to benefit from the anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant oils. Fresh oregano is fairly inexpensive and you can even grow it yourself! Choose fresh oregano leaves that are firm and have a vivid green color. The leaves also should be free of dark spots and yellowing. Fresh oregano can be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a lightly dampened paper towel. It may also be frozen, either chopped or whole. Dry oregano should be kept in sealed glass container in a cool, dry and dark place.

Oregano, either in its fresh or dried form, should be added toward the end of the cooking process since heat can cause a loss of its flavor. Oregano is the "pizza herb," and is also added to tomato sauce. It complements many vegetables, such as zucchini, mushrooms, onions, peppers or eggplant, and entrees prepared with chicken, pork, and lamb. Fresh oregano makes an aromatic addition to salad dressings. You can also use it in omelets, quiche and frittatas. Enjoy nutritious and delicious oregano in a wide array of your favorite foods.

This article was submitted by Monika Valcarcel, RD, Clinical Nutritionist at NYP/Columbia University




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