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Published on October 06, 2020

bbq ribs with chimichurri sauce

Herbs: A Produce Powerhouse

Deep down I think we all know vegetables are an important part of the diet. Vegetables are low in calories but high in nutrients like vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and fiber. Knowing the importance isn’t always enough to overcome the unique odor of Brussels sprouts or the strong, earthy flavor of beets.

So instead of choking down veggies covered in ranch or cheese sauce, try adding fresh herbs to things you do like.

Packed With Nutrients

A vegetable by definition is a plant, or part of a plant, used as food. The leaf of a plant used in cooking is generally referred to as a culinary herb. I am sure some would disagree but sounds to me like herbs are absolutely vegetables. But more important than definition is nutrition. Fresh herbs contain many of the same vitamins, antioxidants and minerals in a very low calorie but flavorful package. One study showed that oregano ranked even higher than many fruits and vegetables in antioxidant activity.  A quarter cup of cilantro has similar amounts of folate and vitamin A as a serving of green pepper.

If you are new to herbs, keep these tips in mind:

  • If you are adding herbs for their health benefit, stick with fresh (not dried) whenever possible.
  • Dried and fresh pack a different flavor punch. A good rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs is similar in flavor to 1 teaspoon of dried herbs.
  • Tender herbs (such as basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley and tarragon) are better added near the end of cooking
  • Woody herbs (such as lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme) can withstand long cooking times
  • Keep it simple: add cilantro or parsley to your favorite rice dish, throw a sprig of rosemary into your next fall soup, or try out one of the sauces below on just about anything!

Chimichurri Sauce


  • ½ cup fresh parsley
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Pulse for 10-15 seconds until combined but not smooth.


Green Goddess Sauce


  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, dill, basil and/or mint)
  • ¼ cup chives or green onions
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Process until smooth and green.


Lauren Cornay, RD, LN, is a registered dietitian at Avera Heart Hospital.

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