By Phran Novelli

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – That sprig of mint on your plate isn’t just decoration – it helps digestion. Besides adding flavor, mint’s been used in meals and medicine since ancient times because its essential oils have antimicrobial properties to keep food fresh and germs at bay.

Simply smelling mint before a meal has been shown to help you eat a lot less – so take a whiff if you’re watching your weight. Sip a minty aperitif, add chopped mint to appetizers and salads; have mint jelly alongside your entrée, or brew a pot of hot mint tea with dessert. Mint soothes stomach nerves, eases pain, and reduces gas and spasms, all while stimulating digestive juices to help move a big meal along faster, so you feel less stuffed sooner.

So while that after dinner mint might seem like an excuse to eat candy, it’s actually an antidote to feeling too full after a feast. And since it freshens breath too, eat your mint sprig – maybe it’ll cancel out the onion dip.

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