Everyone’s favorite Italian herb, rosemary, has garnered a good amount of attention lately. Not only does the herb take grilled chicken or olive oil to the next level, new studies show it may be associated with slower aging and increased vitality. Grazie!
Scientists recently found that there were more than 300 centenarians living in Acciaroli, a coastal Campagnian hamlet in Italy, and that—you guessed it—rosemary was at the center of the village’s long-life phenomenon.
Given that the global average life expectancy is 71.4 years, Acciaroli’s centenarian trend may make you think twice about this tasty little herb.
Beyond consuming a Mediterranean diet (which is one of the healthiest ways of eating, and connected to greater physical and cognitive health), the villagers were said to infuse everything with rosemary. For having a century of life behind them, they had almost no cataracts, a low occurrence of Alzheimer’s Disease, excellent microcirculation, healthy hearts, regular sexual appetites, and a low incidence of broken bones.
Coincidence? Maybe not.
The Many Benefits of Rosemary
According to Keri Glassman MS, RDN, Nutritious Life, rosemary is a power player: “It has compounds linked to improved immunity, circulation, and digestion. It even plays a role in improving memory and reducing feelings of anxiety and stress.” We’ll take that!
And according to Keri Gans, RDN, Nutritionist, Certified Yoga Teacher, Author of The Small Change Diet, “Rosemary contains antioxidants which may protect against harmful free radicals and help strengthen our immune system.”
In fact, rosemary actually has one of the highest antioxidant counts of all the spices, according to the Journal of Agroalimentary Processes and Technologies. Fresh rosemary leaves are also filled with vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acid, and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
A study done by Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine shows that the diterpenes (a class of chemical compounds thought to have health-boosting properties) in rosemary provide antioxidant-mediated neuronal protection (which may help fight against disease).
Additionally, the carnosic acid in rosemary has been shown to potentially help to promote apoptosis (the naturally-occurring death of cells) and inhibit something called the ‘PI3K/Akt signaling pathway,’ which regulates cell survival, according to Frontiers in Pharmacology.
And back to that bit about anxiety and stress: According to Scientia Pharmaceutica, inhaled rosemary essential oil has been shown to positively affect the mood and promote nervous system stimulation, leading to feelings of energy and alertness.
Adding Rosemary To Your Diet
While the residents of Accioroli are ingesting rosemary of a stronger variety than we may be eating here in the United States, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy rosemary on the regular. As a spice, it can figure prominently in plenty of dishes, savory and sweet.
You can infuse rosemary in your olive oil, make a rosemary-lemon sea salt rub for fish and meat, mix it into Greek yogurt for a healthy, protein-rich spread, eat it with fresh peaches, or simply cook it into some fresh grilled veggies.
Whenever possible, grab fresh rosemary for its full flavor profile (it won’t survive long, but you can preserve it by drying it, icing it, or putting it in oil). Dried rosemary is great, too, and still very flavorful—just make sure you’re buying organic rosemary.
As Glassman notes, “There’s no harm in trying to use rosemary more in your kitchen. Looks good, smells good, tastes good, and good for you.”