Bay Leaf Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Bay leaves

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Bay leaf is an herb popular in savory dishes. It's typically added to foods with a liquid such as broth, tomato-based sauces, or water, and then simmered. It adds a minty and peppery flavor while being low in sodium. Bay leaves are high in several vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants.

There are various health benefits and uses of bay leaves, making them a popular herb for cooking. They are typically used dried whole but can also be found ground.

Bay Leaf Nutrition Facts

One tablespoon of bay leaf (1.8g) provides 6 calories, 0.1g of protein, 1.4g of carbohydrates, and 0.2g of fat. Bay leaf also provides iron, magnesium, and vitamin A. This nutrition information is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 6
  • Fat: 0.2g
  • Sodium: 0.4g
  • Carbohydrates: 1.4g
  • Fiber: 0.5g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0.1g
  • Iron: 0.8mg
  • Magnesium: 2.2mg
  • Vitamin A: 5.6mcg

Carbs

The carbs in bay leaf are complex, meaning they are high in fiber and low in sugars. Since bay leaf is usually pulled out of a dish before eating, the carbs are likely not consumed. Moreover, bay leaf is added to dishes in such small amounts that the carb content would be negligible.

Fats

Bay leaf contains very little fat of which none is saturated.

Proteins

Bay leaf contains almost no protein per serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

Bay leaf is relatively high in iron, with 0.8mg per tablespoon. Iron is an essential mineral. The type of iron in bay leaves is the plant form of non-heme iron. Consuming foods rich in vitamin C can help with plant-based iron absorption.

Bay leaf is also high in magnesium, with 2.2mg per tablespoon. Magnesium is responsible for numerous functions with nerves, muscles, and bones, among others.

Bay leaf also contains vitamin A. This vitamin is involved in immune function, vision, and reproduction, among other processes.

Calories

There are very few calories in bay leaf, and since they are typically removed before serving, practically none are ingested.

Summary

Bay leaf is a nutritious herb that adds flavor without adding fat, sodium, or sugar. Bay leaf is low in calories but high in iron, vitamin A, and magnesium.

Health Benefits

Bay leaves add flavor to popular dishes like soups, stews, and other savory dishes without adding sodium. Researchers are also investigating compounds in bay leaves to determine other health benefits.

Provide Antioxidants

Bay leaves have been studied for their antioxidant properties. These properties help protect against oxidative stress caused by free radicals. The phytochemicals in bay leaf include flavonoids and proanthocyanidins.

May Provide Antibacterial and Antimicrobial Protection

Bay leaves contain antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. These effects have been shown against Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus intermedius, Klebsiella pneumonia,  Escherichia coliListeria monocytogenes, Salmonella typhimurium, and Staphylococcus aureus, which are all causes of foodborne illnesses.

May Prevent Against Some Cancers

Preliminary research suggests that extracts from bay leaves may help prevent early events in colorectal cancer. Bay leaf may inhibit cancer cell growth in breast cancer and leukemia, though more research is needed.

May Help Control Type 2 Diabetes

There is limited evidence to suggest that bay leaf benefits people with type 2 diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus. It's believed that herbs such as bay leaf can help control blood sugar and fats in the bloodstream. More research is needed.

May Balance Cholesterol

Some research shows that bay leaf ingestion helps reduce "bad" cholesterol and increases "good" cholesterol levels.

Adverse Effects

Bay leaves should not be consumed whole. The leaf remains intact and cannot be digested. It may become lodged in the throat or cause damage to the intestinal tract.

Chopped or ground bay leaves are likely safe when consumed in amounts typically found in food. It is also possibly safe when taken medicinally for short periods of time. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to know the effects of bay leaves if higher doses are consumed or if it is used long-term.

Varieties

The herb commonly known as the bay leaf can come from a variety of different trees. One of the more widely known sources is the bay laurel tree (Laurus nobilis). Other varieties of bay leaves include the California bay leaf, the Indian bay leaf, the Indonesian bay leaf, the West Indian bay leaf, and the Mexican bay leaf.

Each variety of bay leaf has a slightly different taste. Bay leaves may be used fresh, dried, ground, or whole. Fresh bay leaves may also be found in the produce section of some markets. Since fresh bay leaves don't last long, they are not as common as dried.

Storage and Food Safety

Many people store bay leaves in their spice cabinet. However, some say that freezing bay leaves is the preferred way of storing this herb. Many chefs recommend storing bay leaves in the freezer because the leaves retain more flavor when frozen than they do when stored in a cool, dry space.

How to Prepare

You can add ground or dried whole bay leaves to many savory dishes during simmering. However, many cooks feel that ground bay leaves are too strong and prefer to use a whole leaf when cooking, then discard the leaf before serving.

Recipes

Was this page helpful?
8 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Spices, Bay leaf. Food Data Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2020.

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium: Fact sheet for health professionals. Updated March 29, 2021.

  3. National Institutes of Heath Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin A: Fact sheet for health professionals. Updated March 26, 2021.

  4. Algabri SO, Doro BM, Abadi AM, Shiba MA, Salem AH. Bay leaves have antimicrobial and antioxidant activities. J Pathogen Res. 2018;1(1):3.

  5. Peris I, Blázquez MA. Comparative gc-ms analysis of bay leaf (laurus nobilisl.) essential oils in commercial samples. Int J Food Prop. 2015;18(4):757-762. doi:10.1080/10942912.2014.906451

  6. Bennett L, Abeywardena M, Burnard S, et al. Molecular size fractions of bay leaf (Laurus nobilis) exhibit differentiated regulation of colorectal cancer cell growth in vitro. Nutr Cancer. 2013;65(5):746-764. doi:10.1080/01635581.2013.796999

  7. Pereira ASP, Banegas-Luna AJ, Peña-García J, Pérez-Sánchez H, Apostolides Z. Evaluation of the anti-diabetic activity of some common herbs and spices: providing new insights with inverse virtual screeningMolecules. 2019;24(22):4030. doi:10.3390/molecules24224030

  8. Singletary K. Bay leaf. Nutrition Today. 2021;56(4):202-208. doi:10.1097/nt.0000000000000493