Sage is a savory herb that is available fresh or dried throughout the year. As with other herbs, the nutritional benefits of sage are present in even a small amount of the herb, adding flavor without fat, calories, or excess sodium.
Sage is native to countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, particularly Greece and Italy. It has a long history of being used as a medicinal herb due to its healing properties. Sage was also used as a meat preservative before the days of refrigeration.
Two teaspoons of sage provides only 5 calories, the majority (4 calories) come from carbohydrate sources. Sage also contains about one-half of a gram of dietary fiber, a little over 2% of the daily value. As with most plant foods, sage contains very little fat and no dietary cholesterol.
Vitamins and Minerals
Sage is a rich source of vitamin A, providing 85.6 IU (1.7% of the daily value) per 2 teaspoon serving. Most of this comes from beta-carotene, an antioxidant best known for eye health.
Sage contains the minerals calcium, iron, potassium, and a small amount of sodium. Calcium is an essential nutrient for bone health; sage contains 20 milligrams per 2 teaspoon serving. Calcium and potassium together are also important for cardiovascular health. Both are important for maintenance of a normal heart rhythm and in the regulation of blood pressure. In addition, sage only contains 0.16 milligrams of sodium per serving, making it a great addition to a low-sodium diet.
Other Nutritional Properties
Sage is related to rosemary, and both herbs contain a phenolic acid called rosmarinic acid. This antioxidant is absorbed from food and acts to reduce inflammatory responses in the body. Increased intake of sage is recommended if you have inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, as well as bronchial asthma, and atherosclerosis.
Sage is also rich in flavonoids, which are also plant pigments with health and nutritional benefits, including a link to a reduced risk of certain cancers. The primary three found in the herb are apigenin, diosmetin, and luteoin.
Certain compounds in sage may also benefit the brain. Four compounds isolated from an extract from the root of Chinese sage were found to be acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors, which may be protective against Alzheimer's disease.
How to Use Sage in Cooking
Whenever possible, choose fresh sage over dried for the best flavor. The leaves should be a vibrant green-gray color, free from dark spots or yellowing. Choose organic, if available, to reduce the chances that the herb has been irradiated, which lowers its vitamin C and carotenoid properties. Sage will stay fresh in the refrigerator for several days if wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed inside a loosely closed plastic bag.
Use sage as a seasoning for tomato sauce or add to egg dishes, such as omelets. Adding the herb to a summer vegetable salad or to a bean dish makes the dish savory. Sage is also good when baked with chicken or fish, but be sure to add the herb near the end of the cooking process for maximum flavor and nutritional benefits.