Why Sage is a Superfood

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Used with permission from Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet by Tonia Reinhard, $24.95 paperback, Firefly Books, 2010. The following excerpt can be found on Page 162. 

Salvia officinalis 

In a Nutshell 

ORIGIN: Southeastern Europe and Asia Minor
SEASON: Summer; available year-round
WHY IT’S SUPER: Good source of vitamin K; contains phenols and flavonoids
GROWING AT HOME: Easy to grow in the home garden

What’s in a Serving of Dried Sage
(2 teaspoons/1.4 grams)
CALORIES: 4 (18 kJ)
PROTEIN: 0.2 grams
TOTAL FAT: 0.2 grams
FIBER: 0.6 grams

The genus name of this herb comes from the Latin word for “save,” and over the centuries sage has been used to treat a wide range of diseases. To the Romans, it was a sacred herb and its harvesting included rituals; the Greeks used it to treat snakebites. The scientific name of the plant refers to the fact that in ancient times it was often the official sage of the apothecary.

Other notable varieties of sage include pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) and clary sage (Salvia sclarea). The scientific name of pineapple sage refers to its elegant appearance; that of clary sage derives from its use in treating eye disorders, sclarea meaning “to clarify.”

Sage has a slight peppery taste, and its use in recipes is varied. In the West, it is mainly used as a seasoning for poultry stuffing and sauces. Germans season sausage with sage, as do the British in English Lincolnshire sausage. Sage is a good source of vitamin K, and it contains numerous phytochemicals including phenols and flavonoids.

The Healthy Evidence 

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food reported on extracts of several herbs and their potential health effects. Sage showed a high level of antioxidant activity against oxidative stress in liver cells. In 2008, Pakistani researchers demonstrated that sage was an effective antimicrobial agent against specific bacteria, including common pathogens such as salmonella, shigella, and staphylococcus. That sage extract can enhance memory has been demonstrated in a number of studies, including one 2008 Australian study that noted this effect in people over the age of 65.

Making the Most of Sage 

Most people only make stuffing, the most common use for sage, during the holidays. One way to add more sage to your diet, and thereby increase antioxidant intake, is to use it in grain side dishes such as wild and brown rice, and barley and lentils. Sage will also enliven sauces and stews.

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