What Is Fenugreek Good For?

Fenugreek
Botanical name: Trigonella foenum-graecum

Fenugreek Nutrition Facts

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is one of the oldest cultivated medicinal plants native to southern Europe and Asia. Nowadays, it’s also popularly grown throughout Mediterranean regions, Argentina, North Africa, France, India and the U.S. 1

Fenugreek is mentioned in detail in Egyptian papyrus writings circa 1500 B.C.2 Because it’s been used in so many cultures, this herb has amassed many different monikers such as methi, bird’s foot, Greek hay and bockshornsame,3 to name a few.

An annual plant about 2 feet tall, fenugreek is also considered a legume.4 It produces light green leaves similar to clover, small whiteflowers and long pods, each containing 10 to 20 small hard seeds. The seeds have a pungent aroma and fairly bittertaste, described as similar to burnt celery.5

While it’s also used for dying textiles,6 fenugreek’s many food uses and curative aspects indicate how versatile this plant and its derivatives can be.

The tender leaves and shoots can be added to salad greens,7 while the extract is used for marinades as well as imitation vanilla, butterscotch, rum and maple syrup flavoring.8

Ground to a fine powder, fenugreek seeds are a favorite ingredient in Indian curries, but it can also enhance any bland dish. They can even be roasted and ground to make coffee.9 After purchasing, fenugreek can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to six months.10

Health Benefits of Fenugreek

health benefits of fenugreek

Fenugreek is a good source of polysaccharides such as saponins, hemicellulose, mucilage, tannins and pectin,11 which help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by discouraging bile salts from absorbing into the colon, while at the same time reducing the glycemic response to lower the insulin stimulation of hepatic cholesterol systems.12

The amino acid 4-hydroxyisoleucine in fenugreek seeds may also help lower the rate of glucose absorption in the intestines, which in turn lowers blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes.13 Their high fiber content also adds to digestive bulk, which helps ease constipation.

Diosgenin, another key compound found in fenugreek, has been shown to improve lactation, making it very popular among breastfeeding mothers.14 However, fenugreek can cause uterine contractions, so it’s advised that pregnant women avoid it in any form.15 Research also indicates that diosgenin may help inhibit several types of cancer, as it induces apoptosis.16

Fenugreek contains choline, which studies show may not only help slow mental aging, but also improve the thinking process.17 It’s also considered an aphrodisiac, and plenty of studies tout its ability to increase libido in men.18 Plus, it’s believed to help promote breast growth in women, although no studies have decisively confirmed this benefit yet.19

Fenugreek leaves are traditionally used to help treat indigestion and flatulence,20 while its seeds can be ground into paste and used topically to help fight infection and inflammation in wounds.

Fenugreek seeds are also rich in minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium, copper, zinc, manganese and magnesium. It contains various vitamins as well, including thiamin, folate, riboflavin, pyridoxine (vitamin B6), niacin, and vitamins A and C.21 For more information about the nutrients that fenugreek has to offer, check out the nutrition facts table below:22

Fenugreek Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), seed
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 323  
Calories from Fat 54  
Total Fat 6 g 10%
Saturated Fat 1 g 7%
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 67 mg 3%
Total Carbohydrates 58 g 3%
Dietary Fiber 25 g 98%
Sugar 0 g  
Protein 23 g  
Vitamin A 1% Vitamin C 5%
Calcium 18% Iron 186%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Studies Done on Fenugreek

A double-blind placebo-controlled study was conducted on 25 newly diagnosed patients with Type 2 diabetes to determine the effects of fenugreek seeds on glycemic control and insulin resistance in mild to moderate Type 2 diabetes mellitus. After two months, the results show that insulin and blood glucose levels have significantly reduced.

The researchers concluded that the use of fenugreek seeds may help improve glycemic control and decrease insulin resistance in mild Type 2 diabetic patients, with a favorable effect on hypertriglyceridemia (associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events and acute pancreatitis).23

In another study, scientists demonstrated that fenugreek seed extract (FE) are cytotoxic in vitro to certain cancer cells, but not to normal cells. Treatment with 10 to 15 microgram per milliliter (ug/mL) of FE for 72 hours helped inhibit the growth of breast, pancreatic and prostate cancer cell lines, at least in part due to induction of cell death. Researchers noted that fenugreek is one of many “dietary components” with therapeutic potential.24

Fenugreek Healthy Recipes:
Methi Gobi: Indian Cauliflower With Ginger and Fenugreek

Fenugreek Healthy Recipes

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 medium-sized red onion, diced

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

1 medium-sized cauliflower, chopped

1/2 cup frozen green peas (optional)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon dried fenugreek

2 tablespoons grass fed yogurt

1/2 teaspoon raw honey

Cilantro to garnish

Salt, to taste

 

 

Procedure:

  1. Heat the oil on medium heat for about one minute, and then add the mustard seeds and heat them until they begin to crackle.
  2. Add in the onion and ginger, and sauté for three to four minutes, then add in the cauliflower; cover and cook for three minutes.
  3. Stir in the green peas if using, then add the turmeric, chili powder and salt. Stir well.
  4. Mix in the tomatoes. Cover and cook for five minutes, then stir well.
  5. Add in the dried fenugreek, yogurt and honey. Cover and cook for another five minutes until the vegetables are nice and soft.
  6. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

(Recipe adapted from OneGreenPlanet25)

Fenugreek Fun Facts

Being one of the spices used by ancient Egyptians in their embalming ceremonies,26 prolonged ingestion of fenugreek is widely noted for its ability to change the odor of perspiration and urine to smell like maple syrup.27

Summary

An ancient herb from Asia and Southern Europe, fenugreek leaves and seeds are loaded with vitamins and minerals. These are valuable for their use not only in foods, but also in traditional and modern medicine around the world.28 One of fenugreek’s basic herbal uses is to help stimulate milk production in breastfeeding women29 and to induce childbirth,30 since it contains phytoestrogens or plant chemicals similar to the female sex hormone estrogen.31

Other uses include relieving digestive problems and menopausal symptoms, but lately it’s had a resurgence in interest as an aphrodisiac.32 Fenugreek is also used as a topical remedy to treat skin infections and inflammation.33 Moreover, studies have shown that fenugreek seeds, which are roasted and/or ground before use, help lower blood sugar levels and fight certain types of cancer.34


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