A quick peppermint lesson – Monterey Herald

I love tradition. So I admit I get somewhat annoyed when I hear Christmas carols on the radio before digesting the turkey dinner. And why do they call the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” when I’m still thankful for the leftovers?

However, I love this holiday season. Once the turkey soup is made and we’ve had the last of the chutney and cranberry sauce, I’m ready to go from everything orange and squash to all things red and green…and mint.

Why mint? Some say our obsession with Christmas began with this flavor in 1670 when the conductor of the choir offered a mint-flavored treat to children who participated in a live Christmas scene. The mint candy cane came two centuries later.

In addition to getting us holiday spirits, are there any health benefits to consuming mint? According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (https://www.nccih.nih.gov), spearmint is a mixture of two types of herbs – spearmint and water mint. The health properties are attributed to its leaves and the oil extracted from its leaves and flowering parts.

However, like many herbal products, research on the medicinal effects of mint is scant. Some small studies suggest that peppermint oil capsules may help relieve abdominal pain and possibly some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Warning: These capsules were specially coated so they wouldn’t disintegrate until they reached the small intestine. Researchers say straight peppermint oil is more likely to make digestive problems worse.

Historically, peppermint tea has been used to treat indigestion and menstrual cramps. Its leaves also give us a healthy dose of antioxidants that may protect us from some diseases and premature aging.

One of the oils extracted from peppermint leaves is menthol, which may help relieve cold and allergy symptoms such as stuffy nose and sore throat.

However, mint is not suitable for everyone. People with acid reflux disease (also known as GERD) need to avoid mint because it can worsen symptoms. Transplant patients who take a medication called cyclosporine should also stay away from peppermint. If you are prone to kidney stones or have severe allergies, be careful with peppermint products.

As much as I love the mint flavors of the season, I need to remember that many of them are related to foods that contain extra sugar and fat. Peppermint ice cream, anyone? Let’s not be stingy, though. Add a little mint to your life this season and remember the simple rule of moderation.

I think I just got the craving for a cup of mint and hot chocolate. happy vacation.

Barbara Intermill is a registered dietitian, registered dietitian, and diabetes care specialist affiliated with the Monterey Peninsula Community Hospital. She is the author of Quinn-Essential Nutrition: The Uncomplicated Science of Eating. Email her at barbara@quinessentialnutrition.com.

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