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By Alexandra Sifferlin
May 1, 2015
TIME Health
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The Kentucky Derby is this Saturday, and that means mint juleps will be on the menu. While there’s really no great health benefit imparted by bourbon, mint certainly has its qualities. If nutrition is what your after, mint soaked in booze may not be the best source, but if you need an excuse for a second mint julep, we’ve got a few.

“Without a doubt, the mojito is my favorite way to enjoy the fresh flavor of mint, but it’s mint in its natural state that I truly love,” says registered dietitian Tina Ruggiero. “Mint is available as a tea; you can buy peppermint oil and, of course, there’s the mint leaf itself.”

Ruggiero says that used in all these forms, mint has the ability to calm an upset stomach, relieve nasal symptoms from cold or allergies, and it’s a good source of Vitamins C and A. Some studies have even found that peppermint oil can be an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.

“While mint has trace amounts of potassium, magnesium and calcium, you’d have to eat quite a bit of it to garner any particular benefit,” says Ruggiero. “Instead, use it liberally as an ingredient where appropriate, since it doesn’t add fat, calories or sodium to your meals.” (That probably means mint crushed in your Derby drink isn’t doing you much good).

Besides mint juleps or mojitos, mint can add an extra kick in the kitchen. Try adding some chopped mint to salads or smoothies, or as Ruggiero suggests, infuse cold water with mint for a refreshing and healthy drink.

Gardening enthusiasts also take note: mint is also a great addition to an herb garden.

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