Trigonella foenum-graecum is the botanical name of the herb fenugreek. While it is a native of the Mediterranean region, it is now extensively cultivated in India and parts of Europe. The Seeds from the plants are dried and used as a spice. The green part of the herb is a popular vegetable.
Fenugreek was used as medicine for, among other things, diabetes in ancient times. Records go back to the time of the Pharaohs. Dioscorides, the ancient Greek philosopher and probably one of the earliest medicine writers mention this plant.
Some potential health benefits of fenugreek seeds include the following:
- Improved digestion: Fenugreek seeds are high in fiber, which can help regulate digestion and relieve constipation.
- Increased milk production in breastfeeding mothers: Fenugreek has been traditionally used to increase milk production in breastfeeding mothers, and some studies suggest that it may be effective.
- Lower cholesterol levels: Fenugreek has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels, which can reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Improved heart health: Fenugreek has been shown to positively impact heart health by reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and improving lipid levels.
Many scientific studies validate the antidiabetic property of fenugreek. A double-blind placebo on mild type 2 diabetes patients showed improved blood sugar control and reduced insulin resistance. (Gupta A et al., 2001), Fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water are useful as an adjuvant treatment in the control of type 2 diabetes. (Kassaian, N. et al., 2009). Preliminary animal and human trials validate this medicinal property. Fenugreek seed powder helped reduce blood sugar and blood lipids. (Smith, M., 2003; Madar. Z. et al., 1988; Sharma, R.D. et al., 1990)
The dietary fiber contained in the spice has beneficial physiological effects. Antidiabetic nutraceuticals include fenugreek. (Srinivasan. K, 2006) Several bioactive amino acids are isolated from fenugreek seeds. (Steve S et al., 2003). These amino acids are responsible for this anti-diabetic property.
Fenugreek is one of four medicinal plants used in Ayurveda diabetes treatment formulations, with scientific evidence supporting its anti-diabetic properties.
Fenugreek seeds are widely used in cooking, particularly in South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisines. The seeds have a slightly bitter taste and are often used whole or ground in dishes such as:
- Curry dishes: The seeds are a common ingredient in many Indian and Pakistani curries, adding a slightly bitter and nutty flavor.
- Spice blends: The seeds are often used in spice blends such as garam masala, berbere, and ras el hanout, adding depth and complexity to the blends.
- Lentils and legumes: Fenugreek seeds are often added to lentils and legumes, such as dal and chickpeas, to add flavor and nutrition to these dishes.
- Meat dishes: Fenugreek seeds are sometimes used in meat dishes, particularly in North Africa, where they flavor dishes such as kebabs and tagines.
- Bread: Fenugreek seeds are sometimes used in making traditional bread, such as Indian naan and Ethiopian injera, adding flavor and texture to the bread.
When cooking with fenugreek seeds, it’s important to keep in mind that a little goes a long way. The seeds have a strong flavor, and too many can overpower a dish. It’s best to start with a small amount and adjust to taste. Additionally, the seeds can be bitter when raw, so they are often toasted or roasted before use to bring out their flavor and reduce bitterness.
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