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.
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