Fenugreek is widely popular as a spice, but the plant is also used for its leaves. The greens are used fresh or dried and the seeds are used as a spice. This annually growing plant is native to Indian subcontinent and is also used in Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia and Yemen cuisines. However, it gets its name from Greek language and means “Greek Hay”. It can also be used as an herb and microgreens can be used in salads. A lot of health benefits have been attributed to fenugreek, which we can look at in detail. <!..more..>
Fenugreek is a small plant that grows annually with green oblong leaves. The leaves are used as an herb in the fresh or dried form and as a vegetable as well. The seeds are amber coloured and cuboid in shape, with a bitter taste. The seeds are mainly used as a spice. Fenugreek microgreens are also used in recipes and have a slightly different taste as compared to the fully grown fenugreek plant. Roasting the fenugreek seeds will reduce its bitterness while imparting a lovely nutty and toasty flavour to it. Different recipes call for different methods of treating the seeds.
Fenugreek plant requires little sunlight and can grow well in containers. You can very well grow it in your kitchen garden and use the freshest and organic variety in your diet. It has also been known as a medicinal plant for a long time and today we will look at the various benefits of fenugreek, both in the form of leaves as well as seeds.
To find out how to grow Fenugreek at home or in your back-yard you can watch the below video:
Nutritional Profile of Seeds & Leaves
|Fenugreek Seeds (1 oz)||Fenugreek Leaves (1 oz)|
|Calories||92 calories||14 calories|
|Carbohydrates||16.85 g||1.7 g|
|Protein||6.89 g||1.1 g|
|Total Fat||1.53 g||0.3 g|
|Dietary Fiber||6.89 g||0.3 g|
|Calcium||8% of RDA||11% of RDA|
|Iron||54% of RDA||3% of RDA|
Fenugreeks seeds and leaves are rich in other nutrients like Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, Folic acid and Vitamin C. It also contains various minerals like Potassium, Copper, Selenium, Zinc etc. Vitamin K is present in fenugreek leaves. According to the figures in the table given above, we can see that fenugreek seeds are rich source of iron.
The health benefits of fenugreek can also be attributed to the presence of soluble fibre present in fenugreek seeds, along with saponins, essential amino acids like lysine and l-tryptophan, mucilage, tannins, pectins and hemi-cellulose.
Benefits of Fenugreek
1. Helps in lowering blood cholesterol levels:
Fenugreek seeds are a rich source of something called as the steroidal saponin. This substance helps in preventing the absorption of cholesterol and triglycerides into the blood stream, thereby reducing the serum cholesterol levels. It is primarily beneficial in lowering the levels of total cholesterol, LDL, VLDL and triglycerides. Fenugreek, however, did not have much impact on the HDL levels. This has been confirmed in a study as well.
2. Helps in controlling blood sugar levels:
There are numerous studies done on the effect of fenugreek seeds on blood sugar levels, glycemic response and insulin resistance in diabetic patients. The results have been positive and promising, thus warranting the use of fenugreek in the management of diabetes.
A study done on type II diabetic patients confirmed that there is improvement in the glycemic control and decrease in insulin resistance when administered with fenugreek seed extract. In another study, the effect of soluble fibre from the fenugreek seeds on diabetes has been studied. These soluble fibres prevent in the inhibition of digestion and absorption of carbohydrates in the diet. This helps in improving glucose homeostasis and enhances insulin action.
3. Helps in preventing certain cancers:
Various naturally occurring foods are being identified which help in prevention as well as in treatment of cancer. Certain biological agents present in such foods are cytotoxic in nature to the cancer causing cells.
Fenugreek seeds also contain some biologically active agents which have anti-cancer properties. One study has shown the effect of an ingredient called as diosgenin, present in fenugreek seeds. This substance has anti-cancer effects on prostate, pancreatic, colon and breast cancer cells. Different concentrations of fenugreek seed extract on cytotoxicity to cancer causing cells and its effect on the prevention and treatment of cancer was studied.
Another study has shown that when fenugreek powder is consumed it also displays anti-tumor properties. There was decrease in growth of tumours by almost 25 – 40 %.
4. Anti-inflammatory, Anti-pyretic & Anti-oxidant:
Fenugreek seeds are known to possess anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to treat scarring, boils and burns on the skin. It can also be used in getting pain relief in conditions like arthritis where the joints get inflamed. Various different enzymes present in fenugreek greens or seeds help in reducing the inflammation. Certain extracts of fenugreek are also helpful when dealing with allergic inflammatory reaction on the skin caused by various different agents.
Fenugreek also possesses anti-oxidant properties which is quite beneficial to combat the free radicals that are generated in the body on a daily basis. It is also quite important to include anti-oxidants in the diet because in the long run, excessive free radicals lead to oxidative stress in the body. This stress can result in conditions like Cancer, heart ailments and inflammatory diseases. This benefit of fenugreek can be attributed to the presence of phenolic compounds in it.
The extract of Fenugreek leaves has shown that it can help in reducing the hyperthermia within 1 to 2 hours of administration. The various types of phytochemicals present in fenugreek are cardio glycosides, alkaloids and phenols of which the anti-pyretic effect is attributed to alkaloids. The mode of action of these alkaloids is similar to that of NSAIDs.
5. Helps in reducing menstrual pains:
Menstrual pains can be quite severe and even the mild ones can cause disruption in routine life. Instead of relying on artificial medications to relieve the pain, women are always on the look-out for natural or herbal methods to help alleviate the pain. This is one interesting benefit of fenugreek where there are significant results seen without any noticeable side effects.
When girls with dysmenorrhea were given fenugreek powder or placebo, it was found that the pain associated with menstruation reduced to a large extent in the group taking the fenugreek powder. The girls also had reported that there was reduction in the symptoms like nausea, headache, tiredness, syncope, vomiting etc.
6. Helps in digestion & Aids in Weight Loss
Indigestion can lead to various other health problems in the long run. Improving digestion is one of the essential benefits of fenugreek. The fibre content along with the anti-oxidants helps in removing the toxins from the body. The mucilage present in the seed coat of the fenugreek helps in relieving discomfort caused due to acid reflux, gastritis as well as stomach ulcers. Fenugreek seeds are also associated with detoxification of the liver.
The outer coat of fenugreek seed swells when soaked in water. When these seeds are ingested on an empty stomach, they swell inside the stomach and create a feeling of being full. This suppresses appetite and aids in weight loss.
7. Increases breast milk production
Fenugreek has long been known as a galactogogue i.e. substance which increase the production of breast milk. However, not all women are benefitted with the same results. If there are any adverse side effects noticed, it should be discontinued. This benefit of fenugreek is attributed to the compound diosgenin.
A study on 10 women found that supplementation with fenugreek increased the breastmilk production in two weeks.
8. Good for Hair & Skin
Fenugreek seeds have been used in hair and face masks. Some of the benefits of fenugreek seeds are getting rid of blemishes, acne, wrinkles and blackheads. It also helps in lightening and exfoliating the skin. Since it is an anti-oxidant, it helps in preventing damage to the skin from excessive exposure to the sun.
Fenugreek seeds contain a substance called as nicotinic acid, along with lecithin, both of which are good for hair growth. It keeps the scalp cool and also helps in reducing the occurrence of dandruff. It acts as a hair conditioner, reduces hair loss and strengthens the hair follicles.
All these benefits of fenugreek can be obtained by topical application of fenugreek through masks and packs, as well as incorporating it in the diet.
Although fenugreek is relatively safe, it is important to know that there are some side effects of fenugreek which should be kept in mind when using it as an agent for reaping health benefits. Fenugreek is notorious in causing changes in the body odour or sweat, but making it unpleasant and pungent. In some people it can also cause bloating, diarrhoea and flatulence.
The high fibre or mucilage content of fenugreek can cause it to interfere with absorption of medicines. Hence the doctor should always be informed if you are taking any fenugreek supplements. One of the most important side effects of fenugreek is that it can cause uterine contractions, hence is not advisable to be taken by pregnant women.
Recipes using Fenugreek
To avail these numerous benefits of fenugreek, it can be incorporated in the diet in various forms. You can have it in curries, soups, salads and even smoothies. Some interesting recipes using fenugreek leaves and seeds which can be tried at home.
This yummy soup is made using fresh fenugreek leaves combined with lentils. It is wholesome and very tasty. A soup which provides fibre is a perfect addition to make a meal healthy. Pressure cooking will make the lentils nice and soft. You can have it as an appetizer or combine it with Indian flat bread or rice.
Steamed Lentil Fenugreek baskets with Green Chickpea Salad
Another recipe using lentils and fenugreek leaves, however, completely different in taste and appearance. This recipe is diabetic friendly and the fenugreek in it makes it even better. It is steamed, which further increases its health quotient. A protein and fiber rich recipe of fenugreek you cannot go wrong with.
Fenugreek, Carrot and Apple Soup
Soups are excellent appetizers and this one has the goodness of carrots, apples and fenugreek seeds. The bitterness of the fenugreek seeds is balanced by the sweetness imparted by the fruit as well as coconut milk used. It is a thick, creamy soup with a beautiful orange color imparted by the carrots.
Delicious Fenugreek Smoothie
One need not have bitter fenugreek seeds to get its benefits. It can almost always be combined with something which masks its bitter flavour, but does not take away the benefits of fenugreek. This smoothie recipe does just that. This super healthy smoothie is not only tasty, it can also be prepared and kept in the refrigerator for the days when are in a rush but do not want to miss you daily dose of goodness.
Fenugreek seeds are almost always added to a recipe as spice or flavouring. This one however makes use of fenugreek seeds as the main ingredient. The sprouted fenugreek seeds are less bitter in taste, but equally or even more healthy. You can adjust the spice or chilli as per your taste, but the goodness of the curry comes from the sprouts of fenugreek.
Sprouted Fenugreek Salad
Sprouting helps in activating the enzymes present in the seeds and also makes them easy to digest. You can get maximum benefits of fenugreek from this very easy to prepare sprouted fenugreek salad. It acts as an excellent side salad dish; in which you can incorporate various different vegetables. This is a refreshing and crunchy salad with a mild bitterness which is balanced out by the tanginess of tamarind and sweetness of carrots.
This is a very popular recipe in India and a very interesting twist to the regular flat bread. Adding fenugreek leaves to the flat bread dough, gives it a nice green colour and taste. You can substitute this recipe for any flat bread recipe or you can have it on its own. The yogurt increases its protein content while making it soft.
Fenugreek and Feta Salad
This refreshing salad makes use of raw fenugreek leaves which gives out a slightly bitter taste which is perfectly complemented by mint leaves and the acidity of the lemon. The quantities of all the ingredients can be adjusted depending on your choice and taste. The feta imparts the cheesiness in the salad and the nuts give the crunch.