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What are Fenugreek Seeds?
Fenugreek seeds derive from the Fenugreek plant, a herb, similar to clover, that is native to the Mediterranean region, the Middle East, Southern Europe, and Western Asia. The plant grows to about one to two feet in height with light green trifoliate (three part) leaves and white flowers. The seeds come from a long and slender bean pod, each pod has around 20 seeds.
The seeds, which look more like stones, have a bitter, maple taste when eaten raw but roasting them lessens the bitterness. Alternative names for the seeds include bird’s foot and Greek hay seed. The seeds can be consumed as is, but are also ground into powders, put into capsules, and made into tea.
You may see products or recipes with methi or methi seeds and wonder, “What is methi?” Methi in English is Fenugreek; the two are interchangeable.
Nutritional benefits of fenugreek seeds
Fenugreek seeds benefit the dietary needs of many individuals. The seeds offer a good source of fiber. Fiber is not only essential to a daily diet but can also aid in and prevent certain health issues. 100 grams of seeds meets about 65% of your daily fiber recommendations.
The small seed is also rich in minerals such as copper, potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and iron. If you eat the seeds, you are also boosting your levels of folic acid, niacin, and Vitamins A and C. They are also a healthy source of carbohydrates and protein.
Fenugreek Benefits and Uses
You may wonder, “What is fenugreek? Is it different from the seeds or leaves?” For the purpose of informing all readers about the benefits and uses, fenugreek could either refer to the whole plant, seeds, or leaves.
We’ve already discussed the nutritional value of the seeds, but what are some other benefits? Fenugreek leaves and seeds show up in many recipes, but we will discuss those a little bit later. Remember, as with any new health regimen, always talk with your doctor first (especially concerning a pre-existing condition or the health of a child). Read more on the health benefits:
Mothers who breastfeed, are often prescribed the seeds to help increase milk production. Since the seeds are packed full of essential minerals and vitamins, they are also known to “boost” the quality of the breast milk. Also safe for nursing mothers, pregnant women should avoid the herb as it may cause uterine contractions.
To help increase milk production, soak one tablespoon of seeds in one cup of water overnight. In the morning, boil the water (with the seeds) for a couple of minutes, strain the water, and drink. Do this every morning. You can also take at least 500 mg of fenugreek capsules or add leaves of the plant to soups and salads.
The multi-purpose herb can help menstruating women feel more comfortable and alleviate cramping and other symptoms that are common when a woman has her period. It may also contribute to reducing certain symptoms of menopause such as mood swings, depression, and severe hunger pangs.
For individuals who want to promote heart health or are at risk of heart health issues, fenugreek can help. It reduces cholesterol (thanks to the high fiber content), particularly LDL levels, and as a result can lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. Individuals who take the herb may also see a significant reduction in cardiovascular disease.
To improve your heart health, experts recommend drinking one to two cups of fenugreek seed tea each day. The tea is easy to make. Simply add one teaspoon of seeds to one and a half to two cups of water. Let it boil for five minutes, strain, and drink. You may add a little honey to sweeten.
People who have diabetes struggle to maintain a healthy blood sugar and fenugreek can help. Consumption of the herb helps to slowly release insulin into the body which in turn can help keep blood sugar stable rather than massive spikes or dips.
To keep glycemic levels healthy, Each night, soak one to two tablespoons of fenugreek seeds in water overnight. In the morning, drink the water and chew the seeds on an empty stomach.
Digestive issues are common for many people. One day we may be constipated, the next is diarrhea. The fiber content in the seeds can help regulate and maintain healthy bowels. The healthier our bowels, the less likely we are to get colon cancer.
If you suffer from constipation, boil one cup of leaves in water for five minutes. Let the mixture cool, add honey, and consume twice a day until your constipation is gone. To maintain regular bowels, eat a half of tablespoon of seed powder with a glass of warm water each night, before bed.
Along with digestive issues, many of us struggle to find a balance when it comes to eating. Consuming the seeds can help us feel full longer due to the high content of fiber. It may also be effective in increasing metabolism.
Many supplements containing fenugreek are often designed to boost testosterone in men and improve sexual dysfunction.
As you can see, fenugreek has many benefits and uses and is shown to improve and maintain our general health.
Side Effects and Precautions
Although fenugreek is relatively safe in general. There are a number of potential side effects this herbal remedy may cause in certain people. Safety should always come first where health is concerned, so be sure to consider the following if you are planning on making use of fenugreek with regularity.
Fenugreek is safe to consume orally and topically, but amounts above the normal quantities found in foods could cause issues for pregnant women, children and anyone allergic to plant products like soy and peanuts as these are members of the same family (Fabaceae). Diabetic individuals should also closely monitor their conditions when consuming abnormal quantities of fenugreek.
History of Fenugreek
Utilizing fenugreek for both medicinal and culinary uses dates back to ancient times. Egyptians were known to use the spice during the embalming process, and the Greeks and Romans feed it to cattle. The use of fenugreek is becoming more popular due to its use in Ayurvedic medicine, a practice that is gaining popularity in the U.S. and worldwide.
Studies done on Fenugreek
For years, researchers have looked for evidence as to why the seemingly magical plant has so many health benefits. According to a study published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, drinking a tea made of at least 10 grams of fenugreek seeds can help control high blood sugar, particularly in individuals with Type 2 diabetes.
Similarly, in a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, people with Type 2 diabetes can see health benefits when eating baked goods which use fenugreek flour.
In regards to women who breastfeed, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reveals that women who consumed a fenugreek supplement saw an increase in milk production as well as an increase in their infant’s weight in the weeks that followed birth.
According to a study published in the Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology, consuming fenugreek seeds reduced bad cholesterol in rats, although there is little published evidence concerning humans.
The Journal of Reproduction and Infertility published a study revealing that consuming 900 mg of fenugreek powder, in the form of a capsule, helped to reduce dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps).
Fenugreek healthy recipes
Fenugreek is often used as a spice in Indian curries, garam marsala, and is a very versatile spice. The extract from the seed has been used in vanilla, butterscotch, rum, and maple flavorings.
Small quantities of sprouted fenugreek seeds can be added to vegetables, lentil dishes, and dips. The leaves are prominent in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking and often mixed with spinach, potatoes, and carrots.
Let’s take a look at some healthy recipes and ideas to enjoy:
Vegan Red Lentil Soup is a great recipe for “starters” (anyone who wants to start incorporating fenugreek in their diet). The ingredients include:
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 pinch fenugreek seeds
- 1 cup dry red lentils
- 1 cup butternut squash – peeled, seeded, and cubed
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 pinch ground nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
To make the soup, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, cooking the onion, ginger, garlic, and fenugreek. Stir occasionally until the onion appears to be tender. Next, mix the lentils, squash, and cilantro into the pot. Stir in the water, coconut milk, and tomato paste. Finally, season with curry powder, cayenne, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and let simmer for about 30 minutes ( or until lentils and squash are tender).
Think of fenugreek leaves like any other leafy green. You can add a handful of fresh leaves into a pot of stew with potatoes and chickpeas or add to a homemade tomato sauce. You may also want to try adding fresh or dried leaves to steamed green peas.
Dried leaves of the fenugreek plant can be added to a spice mix and used as a “rub” on healthy meats like chicken or used a large bunch of fresh leaves when making authentic Saag Paneer.
As you can see, there are a variety of healthy dishes where the herb is a nice addition. Find your favorite dish, add some leaves or seeds, and be creative.