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The fact that fenugreek (methi) is good for us probably isn’t breaking news, considering what a common ingredient it is in the Indian household – not forgetting, of course, its mentions in Ayurveda as well.

 

But actually exploring everything fenugreek seeds can do for our wellbeing is truly fascinating – it wouldn’t even be going too far to say that this spice exemplifies how “food can be thy medicine”!

 

Have a look for yourself!

 

First, its active components:1-3

 

1] Protein – the amount of protein in fenugreek seeds is tantamount to what’s found in most pulses4

2] Fatty acids – these are crucial for metabolism, and have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties

3] Vitamin C and A – both are essential for healthy skin, night vision and much more

4] Minerals – namely iron, phosphate and calcium, which help your body function properly

5] Saponins – these increase the excretion of cholesterol from the body5

6] Flavonoids and carotenoids – they’re plant pigments with antioxidant properties, amongst many other benefits

7] Coumarins – a fragrant compound with anti-cancer properties6

 

However, the benefits associated with fenugreek seeds are largely due to its high fibre content.

 

Digestive Health

 

Although a source of carbohydrates, fibre is not broken down by the digestive system. It moves through the body, slowing digestion and regulating bowel movements.5, 7

Half of the fenugreek seed is composed of dietary fibers – two types, which are required by the body.

Soluble Fibres:

These are also found in oats, peas, beans, flaxseed, lentils, most fruits and vegetables, and frequently in fibre supplementation.

They dissolve in water to form a mush, which slows down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates.

Soluble fibres promote the growth of “good” bacteria in our gut.

 

Insoluble Fibres:

These are also found in whole grains and the seeds and skins of fruits and vegetables.

They absorb water, turning into a gel-like substance – this helps bulk up the stool, preventing constipation and diarrhea (important, because lack of a bulky stool can gradually make the colon passage narrow, in a condition called diverticulitis – this is accompanied by pain, inflammation and bleeding).5

Insoluble fibres get fermented by the bacteria in our gut (since it isn’t digested), in a process similar to the way yogurt gets formed from milk. This produces a saturated fat called butyrate, which helps our intestine function properly. Butyrate is believed to be pivotal for the prevention of cancer and other diseases of the digestive track (like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease).8, 9

That’s not all, though!

Part of the bitter taste of fenugreek seeds comes from a sticky substance called mucilage, which lines up along the gastrointestinal track and protects it from irritants. This produces an anti-ulcer effect, which can be compared to the common drug, omeprazole.2

That’s not all, though.

 

Fenugreek seeds and their high fibre content go on to have many other health benefits, apart from digestive health!

 

Weight Management, Diabetes and Heart Disease

 

Dietary fibre is believed to increase satiation and reduce appetite, naturally playing a role in weight management.

 

Moreover, because soluble fibres get only marginally absorbed, they don’t lead to sudden spikes in our blood sugar, which can otherwise make us gain weight and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.10

 

Fenugreek seeds also have substances that decrease the insulin resistance of cells, allowing them to take up more sugar from the blood. This lowers our blood sugar, which in turn helps treat diabetes, and reduces risk factors of heart diseases, learning and memory disorders.11-13

 

It doesn’t stop there – the mush produced by soluble fibre can even physically interrupt the absorption of cholesterol by the body!5

 

Saponins and soluble fibres also help the heart because they trigger the production of bile. This digestive liquid is made from LDL (“bad” cholesterol), which then gets reduced from blood, a build-up otherwise leading to heart blockages.5

 

Other Health Benefits

Fenugreek seeds are good for bones, because they have calcium and reduce inflammation, a problem in diseases like arthritis.4

Iron helps the transport of oxygen in our blood. So the iron-rich fenugreek seeds help those suffering from anaemia, a set of conditions where the blood isn’t able to carry enough oxygen (eg. thalassemia).4, 14

 

Fenugreek seeds have properties similar to oestrogen, which may help reduce menstrual disturbances and its associated mood- fluctuations (PMS). They also lessen the effects of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common hormonal problem among women.4, 15-17

It’s also believed that fenugreek seeds can help lactating women, by stimulating lactation.4

Fenugreek Seeds in Your Diet

 

The bitter taste and sweet aroma of methi seeds complement other flavours in food very well, so here are a few ways you can include it in your diet:

 

Add it to dal (mixing it with a tadka of ghee is believed to increase its benefits)18

 

Find it in gauda cheese and goat cheese – they’re sometimes seasoned with fenugreek seeds; so is mediterranean food for that matter!

 

In fact, sprinkle the ground seeds over yogurt, soup, cooked greens, or sauce – anything, really!

After all, those fenugreek seeds in your kitchen can go a long way in getting you closer to a healthier, happier lifestyle.

 

 

References:

 

1.         Petropoulos GA. Fenugreek: The Genus Trigonella. CRC Press, 2003.

2.         Yadav UC & Baquer NZ. Pharm Biol 2014, 52(2): 243-254.

3.         Bahmani M, et al. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med 2015.

4.         Passano P. The many uses of methi. Manushi. 1995:31-34.

5.         Brehm BA. Nutrition: Science, Issues, and Applications [2 volumes]: Science, Issues, and Applications. ABC-CLIO, 2015.

6.         Lacy A & O’Kennedy R. Curr Pharm Des 2004, 10(30): 3797-3811.

7.         Slavin J. Nutrients 2013, 5(4): 1417-1435.

8.         Byrne CS, et al. Int J Obes (Lond) 2015.

9.         Canani RB, et al. World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG 2011, 17(12): 1519-1528.

10.       Neelakantan N, et al. Nutrition Journal 2014, 13: 7-7.

11.       King K, et al. J Biol Chem 2015.

12.       Neelakantan N, et al. Nutr J 2014, 13: 7.

13.       Sauvaire Y, et al. Diabetes 1998, 47(2): 206-210.

14.       Doshi M, et al. Biomedical Research 2012, 23(1): 47-50.

15.       Bagchi D, et al. The FASEB Journal 2015, 29(1 Supplement).

16.       Hassanzadeh Bashtian M, et al. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research : IJPR 2013, 12(2): 475-481.

17.       Zava DT, et al. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1998, 217(3): 369-378.

18.       Sharma H, et al. Ayu 2010, 31(2): 134-140.

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