Health Benefits of Fenugreek
Fenugreek for Healthy Living
Fenugreek is a spice and a herb which is quite popular in the Asian kitchens. Fenugreek gets it name from the Latin root Foenum Graecum or Greek Hay. Fenugreek belongs to the family fabaceae and it is an annual crop. Although its is grown widely through various parts of Asia and the Middle East, its real origins have been widely debated. Fenugreek however, has been considered to have originated in Iraq. Evidence that this spice has been in use for millions of years comes form the fact that it was found in the sarcophagus of Egyptian king Tut. Fenugreek seeds are ochre colored, small and hard.The plant or the herb looks like wild clover. Fenugreek is well known for its medicinal value and is a part of the Indian kitchen pharmacy. When rightly used this spice could add loads of flavor and nutrition to food, however, it could make food taste bitter and unpalatable if used in excess. The clover like leaves are also used in various curries across the eastern parts of the world. The use of fenugreek seeds in diabetes is well documented.
The Nutritious Spice - Fenugreek
Fenugreek is rich in potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium. It is also rich in iron and sodium with small amount of copper, zinc, selenium and manganese
Fenugreek is also known to have a good deal of Vitamin C, some amount of Vitamin A, B6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate. It is no wonder that fenugreek is considered a great health food as it is rich in many vital vitamins and minerals essential nutrients for optimum health.
How Fenugreek is Used in Cooking
It is not only a spice but it serves as a dark green super food. Fenugreek seeds are used in pickles and curries, masala or curry powders. Fenugreek has a bitter taste and so it would be wise to use it in small quantities. Kasoori methi or dried fenugreek leaves are another way of using this herb. The leaves are dried and preserved and used throughout the year in curries and rotis or flat bread. They add much needed fiber and nutrition to the bread, this is an easy way of making children eat green leafy vegetables which they generally dislike. The seeds and the leaves are well known for their medicinal uses. T
Fenugreek for Controlling Diabetes
An amino acid called 4-hydroxy isoleucine present in Fenugreek helps stimulate the secretion of insulin. Fenugreek lowers the blood glucose levels by slowing down the absorption process of carbohydrates and thereby regulating glucose levels in the blood. The dietary fiber in the fenugreek causes the stomach to empty out slowly. As a result, the sugar levels in the blood stream are controlled.
A study conducted by Kochhar and Nagi M found that I-2 grams of a powdered fenugreek seed mixed with other herbs significantly reduced the fasting as well as the postprandial glucose level of the diabetic patients.
Another study found that fenugreek powder/meal mixed with whole wheat flour and baked into bread also was equally effective.
Other studies also suggests that fenugreek brings about a 10% reduction in blood sugar levels at an average. The high fiber content in fenugreek along with its ability to enhance insulin sensitivity is said to be the reason for its effectiveness.
Fenugreek Health Benefits for Women
- Lactation : Frenugreek has been traditionally considered as a important part of the diet of a lactating mother in Asian households. This spice contains phytoestrogen that boosts milk production in lactating mothers, The presence of a compound named diosgenin in fenugreek stimulates milk production.There is sufficient evidence to suggest that it not only helps increase milk production but researchers also observed a significant wait gain in new born infants.
- A 2005 study showed that the consumption of fenugreek in lactating more resulted in significant increase in the production of breast milk compared to the group that did not consume fenugreek.
- Another study showed that fenugreek flour added to whole wheat while making bread also resulted in better production of breast milk in lactating mothers.
- Menstrual Pain and cramps : Some women face major issues brought on by menstrual cycles of the uterus expelling dead tissue. Fenugreek seeds have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and is claimed to reduce menstrual cramps, nausea and fatigue. Studies done on college aged women evidenced that the consumption of fenugreek powder substantially reduced the menstrual pain and other PMS (Pre Menstrual syndrome) symptoms.
- Menopause: Fenugreek has been found to lessen the discomfort women experience due to menopause. Its is reported that mood fluctuations and hot flushes which are symptoms of menopause are considerably reduced with the consumption of fenugreek tea.
- A 2015 study seeking to reverse the diminishing libido of pre-menopausal women, found that the use of fenugreek in the daily diet helped increase sexual desire and arousal, with positive effects in concentration of E2 [estradiol] and free testosterone.” This studies indicates that Fenugreek has estrogen-like properties and increases libido in both men and women.
- Breast Enhancer: Fenugreek has incidentally also been used as a component in traditional natural breast enhancing treatments.
- Induce Labor: Fenugreek seeds have been known for their ability to induce labor and uterine compression. It is also believed to reduce labor pain.
- Warning : Hence intake of fenugreek seeds or leaves during pregnancy could lead to premature childbirth or miscarriage.
Fenugreek for Men
Bodybuilding supplements which are a craze today have a significant amount of fenugreek supplements added in them. Many studies support the claim that fenugreek has testosterone boosting powers.
A study conducted in 2011 concluded that fenugreek supplements helped increase male libido. The study conducted on men from the age group of 25-60 showed that those who took the supplements (28%) claimed to have better sex drive or desire compared to those on placebo.
Other Health Benefits of Fenugreek
Fenugreek for Arthritis, Heart problems, Cancer and Kidney Function
- Arthritis: The anti-inflammatory compound called diosgenin found in fenugreek in conjunction with its antioxidant and analgesic properties helps reduce arthritic pain. A study done in 2012 found that the use of fenugreek reduces inflammation in rats.
- Heart Problems: A chemical compound found in fenugreek called coumarin acts as a blood thinner.This has been found to prevent the aggregation of platelets together, this action is very similar to the way most common blood thinners like aspirin works. This action of coumarin reduces the incidents of clots which could block blood vessels.
- Cancer: Saponin a compound found in fenugreek is purported to stop the multiplication of cancer cells. It is also claimed to initiate apoptosis or death of the malignant cells. However there isn't enough documented evidence for these claims.
- Kidney Function: Fenugreek which is rich in iron helps increase red blood cells. It enables better kidney by supplying oxygenated blood to the kidneys. It helps in the excretion of nitrogen compounds and normalizes the excretion of creatinine. The polyphenolic flavonoids in fengreek also help improve kidney function and prevent the deterioration of cells by forming a membrane around them. Thus fenugreek is touted as the friend of the kidney.
Fenugreek for Weightloss, Cholesterol, Liver Function and Beauty
- Weight loss and Cholestrol: The high fiber content in the spice aids in flushing out waste from the body and helps in reducing fat and LDL cholesterol. The Non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) which include saponins, hemicellulose, mucilage, tannin, and pectin help lower blood LDL-cholesterol levels by inhibiting bile salts from being reabsorbed in the colon. The flavonoid called naringenin found in fenugreek helps lowers the lipid levels in those with high cholesterol.
- Liver Function: The polyphenolic compounds present in fenugreek seeds is said to reduce liver damage and help metabolize alcohol in those with alcohol related issues.
- Digestive Disorders: Fenugreek is traditionally used as a remedy in digestive disorders. Flatulence and a sluggish liver is often treated with decoctions of seed slightly roasted made into a tea. Fenugreek tea is said to help reduce acid secretion and neutralize acid.
- Fevers : Fenugreek seed tea is used widely to bring down fevers, and considered to be equal to quinine by ayurvedic doctors.
- Cool Aid: In the hot tropics when the weather really gets unbearable the seeds are soaked in water and the water is consumed on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. This reduces the ill effects of heat and cools the body down considerably.
- Beauty Ingredient: The fibre in fenugreek known as mucilage is great for the skin. When powdered fenugreek is soaked in water it forms a sticky gel which is an excellent moisturizer for the skin. It is said to acts as a UV filter preventing sun damage and prevents premature ageing to the skin
- Fenugreek gel is said to improve hair growth and adds shine to hair when used as a hair mask.
How to Make Fenugreek Tea
Take two teaspoons of Fenugreek seeds and roast them lightly in a pan on moderate heat. Just as the flavor rises switch off the heat and add them to two cups of water. Bring it to a boil and leave on low heat for 4-5 minutes. Drink it hot or cold.
You could also soak the seeds overnight and add it to boiling water. Strain and drink your tea.
Quick Indian Fenugreek Recipes
Aloo Methi ( Fenugreek Potato Curry )
You can make flavorful curried potatoes that are not only tasty but also healthy. To Take a teaspoon of oil in a pan, add a teaspoon of cumin seeds into it and let it splutter. Add finely chopped onions and let it soften. Add two cups of diced potatoes and sauté it for a few minutes add some salt and water and let it cook. When it is done add a pinch of turmeric, chilly flakes or chili powder, corriander powder and a bunch of fresh cleaned washed fenugreek leaves or a hand full of dried leaves into the pan, toss it around until the heavenly flavor of the fenugreek tempts you. Season with salt. Add half a teaspoon of Gharam Masala for extra flavor. Eat it with flat bread or rice.
Cottage Cheese and Fenugreek Curry (Methi paneer)
You can make a mouth watering curry with cottage cheese and fenugreek leaves. Saute a couple of finely chopped onions in a pan, add a couple of diced tomatoes and sauté until mushy. When the onions and tomatoes are cooled blend them in a blender with some chilly flakes, coriander powder added to it. In another pan add a tablespoon of butter or clarified butter, add a teaspoon of cumin seeds and when it splutters, add one teaspoon of grated ginger,and two cups of cubed paneer (2cm) or cottage cheese to the pan, and saute for a couple of minutes (and not more as the cottage cheese becomes leathery) . Add the blended paste into the pan and let it bubble free for a few minutes, now add the fenugreek leaves a bunch of cleaned fresh leaves or a handful of dried leaves for another minute before you take it of the heat. Add salt to taste and your paneer methi masala is ready to be served with rotis naans or rice.
Fenugreek Side Effects
Let food be your medicine and eat your way to health and wellness. Remember that even the good things in life need to be consumed in moderation. There are some documented side effects of fenugreek. One of the most important ones is consuming fenugreek during pregnancy, this could result in miscarriage or premature birth. .
I personally believe that natural foods consumed in moderation cannot be dangerous. However, when we take supplements we take them in high doses and we need to be extremely cautious. Another word of caution, since fenugreek belongs to the same family as peanuts, some people may have an allergy reaction to the spice, so its good to be cautious.
© 2011 Sophie