Bay leaf (also known as laurel) is a spice commonly used to flavor soups and meat dishes due to its light, herbal flavor. It is sometimes sold in stores in a powder or as a fresh leaf, but it is most commonly found as a dry, whole leaf. The bay leaf is added during the cooking process and taken out before a dish is served since the leaf itself is difficult to chew and digest. Contrary to popular myth, the bay leaf is not poisonous.
There are many species in the bay leaf family, but all share a similar taste and nutrition profile. Varieties of the bay leaf can be grown everywhere from the Caribbean to India, and it is found the spice aisles of grocery stores around the world.
The humble bay leaf can pack a mighty punch when it comes to health benefits. While adding minimal calories, bay leaf increases the amount of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to a dish.
Some notable health benefits of bay leaf include:
Immune System Health
Bay leaf is a good source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. These vitamins are all known to support a healthy immune system.
Bay leaf tea can help ease bouts of upset stomach. The tea is also very aromatic, which can help relieve sinus pressure or stuffy nose.
Reduces Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors
One study showed that consuming 1 to 2 grams of bay leaf per day for thirty days helped reduce risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. However, research about bay leaf’s effect on diabetes is still in the early stages, so make sure to consult with your doctor before beginning to use bay leaf as a diabetes control method.
Nutrients per Serving
A crumbled tablespoon of bay leaf contains:
- 5.5 calories
- Protein: .1 g
- Fat: .1 g
- Carbohydrates: 1.3 g
Things to Watch Out For
Bay leaf can add something extra to most savory dishes, and it makes an aromatic tea. However, it should not be eaten raw or in large quantities on its own since it can be hard to chew and digest.
In addition, there have not been adequate studies on the effects of using bay leaf as a medicine during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
How to Use Bay Leaf
Bay leaf can be found in most grocery stores. Usually it comes in a dried whole leaf form. However, dried powders and fresh leaves may also stock the shelves, so feel free to experiment with all three kinds in your recipes. Both dried, powdered bay leaf and fresh bay leaf tend to have a stronger flavor than whole, dried bay leaf, so make sure to use a bit less if subbing in for a recipe.
Here are some ways to use bay leaf in recipes:
- Add to a soup as it cooks for a savory, spicy flavor
- Make some very aromatic bay leaf tea to help settle your stomach
- Try a garam masala recipe using Indian bay leaf
- Include in a bay leaf in marinade for beef or chicken