Make It Better With Basil

From the WebMD Archives

If the herb garden held a popularity contest, basil would likely win first place. This aromatic herb is a late-summer favorite, especially when paired with ripe tomatoes or blended into pesto. These lovely leaves are surprisingly wholesome too.

"We sometimes forget about herbs and the punch they pack from a health perspective," says Candice Candelaria, MS, RDN, a nutritionist at the University of Arizona Integrative Health Center in Phoenix. "Basil not only enhances the flavor of foods, but you're getting some nutritive benefit as well." The herb contains small amounts of vitamin A (good for vision), vitamin C (important for wound healing), and vitamin K (key to blood clotting), as well as flavonoids, plant compounds that counter the oxidative damage implicated in heart disease and aging.

Researchers also report that volatile oils in basil have antibacterial effects, and early studies suggest one volatile oil, eugenol, may also fight inflammation.

Basil grows in home gardens from late spring till mid-autumn. Store it in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel, and keep it in the refrigerator.

That's a Wrap

These refreshing, Asian-inspired wraps feature amazing crunch and flavor. The recipe calls for cellophane noodles, also known as bean thread vermicelli, which are made of bean paste or sweet potato starch and sold in Asian groceries or the ethnic section of large supermarkets.

Basil Lettuce Wraps With Grilled Shrimp and Avocado

Makes 4 servings


  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large avocado, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup shredded jicama
  • 6 ounces cellophane noodles, cooked and drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons
  • 8 large Bibb lettuce leaves, washed, dried
  • 1/4 cup chopped, unsalted peanuts


  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon honey


1. Preheat grill to medium high. Thread shrimp onto wooden skewers that have been soaked in water; spray both sides with cooking spray. Grill shrimp 2-4 minutes per side until they turn pink and opaque. Set aside.


2. Make sauce: In a small bowl, combine lime juice, olive oil, rice vinegar, green onions, garlic, and honey. Set aside.

3. To assemble wraps, lay 4 lettuce leaves flat and fill with shrimp, carrots, jicama, cellophane noodles, basil, and avocado. Sprinkle with peanuts and drizzle with sauce. Roll up lettuce leaves burrito style and serve.

Per serving

413 calories, 27 g protein, 44 g carbohydrate, 15 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 170 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 331 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 30%

Salad Days

The addition of basil and walnuts provides a tasty twist on traditional chicken salad. Serve the chicken salad on whole grain bread, or use it to top salad greens.

Basil Walnut Chicken Salad

Makes 4 servings


  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped


1. In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, yogurt, basil, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper.

2. Add chicken, walnuts, and celery and stir until all ingredients are well combined.

3. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Serve on a bed of baby spinach or lettuce, or on whole-grain bread.

Per serving

325 calories, 30 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 20 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 75 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 310 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 54%

Package Deal

Cooking salmon in foil packets keeps it moist and minimizes mess. To save time, you can also prepare the packets up to a day in advance and store them in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook them.

Lemon Basil Salmon Packets

Makes 4 servings


  • 4 (12-inch-long) pieces aluminum foil
  • 1 medium lemon, sliced into 8 disks
  • 4 (5-ounce) salmon filets
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 Tablespoon capers, drained
  • 16 basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil



1. Preheat oven to 400 F, or heat grill to medium high.

2. On each sheet of foil, place 2 slices of lemon and one piece of salmon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with cherry tomatoes, capers, and basil, and drizzle with olive oil.

3. Fold and crimp foil to seal the packet. Leave space for steam. May be prepared in advance and refrigerated.

4. Bake 20–25 minutes on a baking tray or grill 11-14 minutes.

5. Place each packet on a plate. Cut packets open and serve.

Per serving

359 calories, 31 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 24 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 82 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 300 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 59%

WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on June 23, 2016



Candice Candelaria, MS, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist, University of Arizona Integrative Health Center, Phoenix; medical nutrition therapist, Metabolic Zen, Phoenix, AZ.

USDA Food Composition Database: “Basil, Fresh.”

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements: “Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, Vitamin A.”

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements: “Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, Vitamin C.”

Herb Society of America: “An Herb Society of America Fact Sheet, Basil.”

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