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A delicious, home-cooked Italian meal can still easily be part of a healthy diet plan.  Using fresh spices and herbs can really bring out an authentic Italian taste, especially when paired with healthy cuts of meat.  These five essential Italian herbs and spices will help you create appetizing, nutritious Italian meals at home.

Oregano: This herb is potent and aromatic.  Oregano is packed with several health benefits.  Oregano is linked to a healthy immune and digestive system.  Oregano may help speed metabolism and aid in fat loss.  In Italian cooking, oregano is used as a staple in sauces.  Oregano pairs well with other herbs, such as thyme, sage, and rosemary.

Italian Parsley: Parsley is a great source of vitamins A and K, folate, and iron.  Parsley is usually found in two forms: Italian flat leaf parsley and curly parsley.  Flat leaf parsley has a more robust flavor than curly parsley.  Italian parsley can be used in light sauces, marinades, and fresh salads.

Rosemary: Rosemary has an incredibly pungent flavor and pine-like fragrance.  Some are nervous about adding rosemary to their healthy diet plan due to its powerful flavor, but they are missing out.  Rosemary can add to the most basic of dishes.  Rosemary pairs well with meats, such as roasted chicken, lamb, and beef.  If you are looking for a way to spice up your olive oil, consider infusing it with rosemary.  Rosemary is also a great match with garlic and lemon juice.  Rosemary boasts health benefits, including its ability to boost mood and improve memory.

Hot Pepper: In Italian cooking, hot pepper or peperoncino is added to food for added flavor.  Hot peppers are also placed in olive oil to preserve the flavor of the chili.  Hot pepper infused oil can be used on and in almost anything if you can take the heat.  Chili peppers contain vitamin C, carotenoids, and antioxidants.  

Basil: Basil, a member of the mint family, has anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties.  Basil pairs well with cilantro, chives, parsley, and oregano.  Basil can add flavor to vegetables, meats, stews, and sauces equally.  Are you a pesto lover?  Although classic pesto does not go hand in hand with fat loss due to the pine nuts and parmesan, there are healthier pesto versions that use Greek yogurt or avocado as a base.  Note: Basil is one of the hardiest and easiest herbs to grow at home, even for those without a green thumb.

 

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