Power Plant Not only does fresh basil add spark when used in caprese salad, pesto, and soup, but it’s also full of disease-fighting antioxidants and essential oils. For the biggest health boost, savor it fresh-researchers recently found that a third or more of basil’s polyphenols may be lost when the herb is dried. (Of course, dry basil is still a healthy choice if the fresh version is out of season.) Not sure how to cook with it? Here are 10 ways to use fresh basil . 8.