Spearmint nutrition facts
Spearmint herb or garden mint or common mint has long been reputed for its characteristic aroma it imparts to the ingredients it added to. The least pungent and subtle among the species of mint family, this unique herb is one of chef’s main culinary favorites.
Mint herb botanically belongs to the family of lamiaceae, of the genus: Mentha. Scientific name: Mentha spicata.
This branching perennial herb is native to Mediterranean region. It is widely used across Europe and in large parts of Asia and Africa in flavored drinks, salads and confectionary and as a garnish to recipes.
The herb grows easily in fertile, moist and loose soil with underground runners. In general, the divisions are planted to propagate. The plant reaches about 75 cm in height and bears oppositely arranged leaves along thick square stem. The leaves are dark green, deeply veined, oval shape with pointed ends and serrated margins. Slim pointed spikes of mauve flowers appear during late summer.
There are at least 20 species of mint and their hybrids exist, most of them difficult to classify because of their variability and readiness to hybridize between each other. Here are are some mint herbs apart from the popular peppermint and water mints.;
- Pineapple mint (M.suaveolens),
- Ginger mint (M. x gentilis),
- Japanese mint M. arvensis var.piperascens),
- Corn mint (M. arvensis),
- Bergamot or horsemint (M. Piperita var.citrata).
Health benefits of spearmint
Spearmint is pleasantly aromatic herb packed with numerous health benefiting vitamins, antioxidants and phyto-nutrients.
The leaves and herb parts contain essential oil menthol. However, unlike in peppermint, spearmint does not contain high amounts of menthol (0.5% compared to the 40% in peppermint), making it least pungent and subtly fragrant herb in mint family.
The herb has low calories (about 43 cal per 100 g) and contains zero cholesterol.
The chief essential oil in spearmint is menthol. Other important chemical components of spearmint are ?-pinene, ?-pinene, carvone, cineole, linalool, limonene, myrcene and caryophyllene. These compounds in mint help relieve fatigue and stress.
The herb parts are also very good in minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Iron is required for enzymes in cellular metabolism and synthesis of hemoglobin. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.
It is also rich in many antioxidant vitamins including vitamin A (provides 4054 IU or 135% of RDA), beta carotene, vitamin C, folates (26% of RDA), vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavin and thiamin.
Almost all parts of mint herb found place in various traditional as well in modern medicine.
The herb decoction is an excellent remedy for minor ailments such as headaches, nervous strain, fatigue and stress, as well as for the respiratory problems; helping with asthma, bronchitis and catarrh.
It is very useful to deal with digestive problems including nausea, flatulence and hiccups as it relaxes the stomach muscles.
The essential oil, menthol, also has analgesic, local anaesthetic and counterirritant properties. Used in toothpaste and mouth refresheners.
On the skin, when used as cream or lotion, it may help relieve the itching of pruritis, dermatitis and hives.
Used as blended massage oil or in the aromatic therapy spearmint oil helps with headaches, stress, fatigue, and nervous conditions and to relieve itching.
Spearmint tea can be used safely in pregnancy. In women, it helps reduce unwanted hairs through its anti-androgenic properties.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.73 g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber||6.8 g||18%|
|Vitamin A||4054 IU||135%|
|Vitamin C||13.3 mg||22%|
Selection and storage
Fresh mint leaves available all around the year. The herb is grown, like peppermint, thyme, basil, oregano etc.. in pots either as garden herb or cultivated as field crop for production of essential oils. In general the fresh leaves harvested just before flowering for culinary purposes. However, they are gathered in full flower for distillation of essential oils.
In the herb store, its leaves and stems, fresh or dried are available. Choose spearmint leaves that are fresh, featuring bright green color with spearmint scent. Avoid wilted, yellow and flowered leaves. Flowered stems and leaves almost lost the fragrance.
Once at home, wash the leaves in clean running water, pat dry with absorbent paper and store in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for use in near future.
Dried spearmint is also preferred in dishes especially in the preparation of teas/drinks. To dry mint leaves are spread on the plastic sheet and dried under shade. Thus dried herb parts should be stored in the airtight containers, stored in cool place away from sunlight.
Preparation and serving methods
Unlike other mint species, spearmint is less in menthol; hence less harsh and pungent, making it one of the most preferred herb in cooking, confectionary, and in health drinks.
Here are some serving tips:
Fresh leaves chopped or ground used in the salads.
It is good for making mint sauce. To prepare mint sauce, ground fresh mint leaves mixed with yogurt, cumin and little salt.
The herb is also used as flavoring agent in ice-creams, jams, cakes, jelly etc.
Spearmint tea is a popular drink.
The herb is also used in cooking recipes. In general the herb is added in small amounts, chopped or ground, to recipes at the last moment in order to retain their flavor and taste.
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