Fenugreek seeds are tiny, bitter, dicotyledonous seeds of herb fenugreek. Toasted gently, they exhibit strongly aromatic and pungent flavor. Traditionally, fenugreeks have been found use to cure digestive problems and to improve breast milk secretion in the nursing mothers.
In the botany, fenugreek is a small annual leguminous herb belonging in the Fabaceae family, genus: Trigonella. Scientific name: Trigonella foenum-graecum. Some of the common names of herb fenugreek include greek-hay, methi, bird's foot, greek-clover, etc.
|Fenugreek seeds (Trigonella foenum-graecum). Note for yellow-brown seeds.|
Fenugreek is native to the sub-Himalayan plains of the Indian subcontinent, and today, it is widely grown all over the Southern and Mediterranean Europe, Middle-East Asia and northern African regions.
Fenugreek grows up to about 1-2 feet in height with light green color trifoliate leaves and white flowers. It bears long, slender, yellow-brown pods containing about 10-20 golden-yellow color seeds. Its seeds are small, hard, and resemble tiny, multi-faceted stone-pieces. Raw seeds have maple flavor and bitter taste; however, their taste becomes more acceptable once they gently roasted under a low flame.
Fenugreek seeds are a rich source of minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients. 100 g seeds carry 323 calories.
The seeds compose ample amounts of soluble dietary fiber. Soaking them in water softens their outer coat and turns it slimy (mucilaginous). 100 g of seeds provide am 24.6 g or over 65% of dietary fiber.
Non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) constitute a significant portion of this fiber content in the fenugreek seeds. Some of major NSP's include saponins, hemicellulose, mucilage, tannin, and pectin. These compounds help lower blood LDL-cholesterol levels by inhibiting bile salts re-absorption in the colon. They also bind to toxins in the food and contribute to protecting the colon mucosa from cancers.
NSPs (non-starch polysaccharides) increase the bulk of the food and speed up bowel movements. Altogether, NSPs assist in smooth digestion and help relieve constipation ailments.
It has been established that amino acid 4-hydroxy isoleucine in the fenugreek seeds has facilitator action on insulin secretion. Besides, fiber in them slow down the rate of glucose absorption in the intestines and thus help better regulate blood sugar levels. Fenugreek seeds are therefore one of the recommended food ingredients in the diabetic diet.
The seeds contain many phytochemical compounds such as choline, trigonelline diosgenin, yamogenin, gitogenin, tigogenin, and neotigogens. Together, these compounds attribute for the medicinal properties of fenugreek.
This prized spice is an excellent source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, manganese, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure by countering action on sodium. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome-oxidases enzymes.
It is also rich in many vital vitamins that are essential nutrients for optimum health, including thiamin, pyridoxine (vitamin B6), folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-A, and vitamin-C.
Its seeds have been in use in many traditional medicines as a laxative, digestive, and as a remedy for a cough and bronchitis.
If used regularly; fenugreeks may help control cholesterol, triglyceride as well as high blood sugar (glycemic) levels in people with diabetes.
Fenugreek seeds added to cereals and wheat flour (bread) or made into gruel, given to the nursing mothers may increase breast milk production.
Fenugreek seeds are readily available in the spice stores all around the year. One may find different forms of seeds such as whole seeds, powdered or vacuum packed paste in these stores.
Choose whole seeds from authentic brands. The seeds should feature bright golden-yellow color, hard and exude delicate maple flavor. Avoid old stocks as they may infect by fungal mold and out of flavor.
Store whole seeds in airtight glass container and place in a cool, dark place where it can stay fresh for several months. Powdered or paste form of fenugreek, however, should be kept in the air-sealed packets and placed inside the refrigerator.
Traditionally, fenugreek seeds are in use in a wide range of culinary recipes, especially in the spice mix. The seeds either in the forms of whole seeds, sprouted, powder, sauce or as paste used in a variety of savory dishes in many parts of Middle-East, India, Mediterranean and Central Asian regions.
The seeds should be added in small quantities to food since they possess strong aroma and bitter taste. Dry fry under the low flame in order to mellow their flavor.
Here are some serving tips:
Fenugreek is one of the chief ingredients in Indian curry and masala powders.
Small quantity of sprouted seeds added to vegetables and lentil dishes.
Excess intake of fenugreek seeds by pregnant mothers would pose premature childbirth risk in them.
(Medical Disclaimer: The information and reference guides on this website are intended solely for the general information for the reader. It is not to be used to diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any advice on medications.)
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