Fenugreek (known as methi in Hindi) is one of the widely used green leafy vegetable esp. in the Indian subcontinent. Fenugreek leaves are slightly bitter but also have a unique aroma and taste which matches well with many vegetables, bakery items etc. Apart from all the goodness of green leafy vegetables, fenugreek leaves have their own distinct health benefits and medicinal value.
Fenugreek is an annual plant in the family fabaceae with small green leaves consisting of three small obovate to oblong leaflets. Young shoots and leaves of fenugreek plant are harvested earlier, then the plant can grow again and thus leaves can be harvested again.
Fenugreek goes by various names in different languages, such as methi (Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Marathi), endayam (Tamil), uuva (Malayalam), hulba (Arabic), moshoseitaro (Greek), alholva (Spanish), fieno greco (Italian), shoot (Hebrew), dari (Persian).
Fenugreek is cultivated as a semi arid crop and is moderately tolerant to drought and even salinity. It can thus even be grown on marginal lands. The plant grows well in tropical climate accompanied by a mild winter and a relatively cool summer.
It is quite common in the Indian Subcontinent and in India, the state of Rajasthan is the largest producer of this crop. Fenugreek is also cultivated in countries like Iran, Middle East, Turkey, Egypt, North African countries and Argentina.
Fenugreek is an interesting herb with diverse uses and has many well established and amazing health benefits. It has been used since ages for its medicinal values and as a home remedy for minor ailments.
How to use Fenugreek
Fenugreek has many diverse uses and can be consumed in many different forms. In winters, fresh fenugreek leaves are widely used in cooking. As fresh fenugreek is not available throughout the year, dried fenugreek leaves (known as kasuri methi in Hindi) as well as fenugreek seeds (also known as methi dana in Hindi) are commonly used for flavoring dishes.
In the Indian subcontinent, fresh fenugreek leaves are an ingredient in some curries and are used as a taste enhancer in many preparations. Here is a list of some delicious methi or fenugreek recipes that can be easily prepared at home.
Following are the most common uses of fenugreek:
- Fresh fenugreek leaves are widely cooked as a vegetable or used in making various curries and stews.
- They can be added to wheat or maize dough and then rolled to make flatbreads or mixed with gram flour (besan) to make delicious snacks.
- Dried fenugreek leaves are also many times used as the base of many curries.
- Fenugreek seeds are widely used for flavoring curries, in pickles and as part of herbals teas etc. The seeds are aromatic but bitter in taste, however they lose their bitterness when lightly roasted.
- Water-soaked fenugreek seeds or sprouted fenugreek seeds are also commonly in food preparation.
- Fenugreek powder is also added to various cookies and even certain confectionery items like bread and biscuits and is even used as wheat and maize flour supplement for bread making.
- Fenugreek powder is one of the spices in the widely used Indian Garam Masala spice blend.
- Fenugreek is also used to flavor imitation of maple syrup and as a condiment.
- Extracts from fenugreek seeds are used in soaps, cosmetics and herbal oils.
Nutritional information: Fresh Fenugreek Leaves (100 g)
Take a look at the nutritional profile for 100g of fresh fenugreek leaves based as per various sources. For reference, 1 cup of chopped fenugreek Leaves weighs about 28g.
|Dietary fiber||1 g|
Nutritional information: Fenugreek Seeds (100 g)
Fenugreek seeds have a healthy nutritional profile, with no cholesterol, very little amount of fat and are rich in dietary fiber and essential minerals. The nutritional profile for 100g of fenugreek seeds based on United States Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database is depicted below. For reference, 1 teaspoon of Fenugreek seeds weighs about 3.7 g.
|Total lipid (fat)||6.41 g|
|Fatty acids, total saturated||1.46 g|
|Fiber, total dietary||24.6 g|
|Calcium, Ca||176 mg|
|Iron, Fe||33.53 mg|
|Magnesium, Mg||191 mg|
|Phosphorus, P||296 mg|
|Potassium, K||770 mg|
|Sodium, Na||67 mg|
|Zinc, Zn||2.5 mg|
|Manganese, Mn||1.228 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||0.6 mg|
Major Health Benefits of Fenugreek Leaves & Seeds
1. Low in Calories
Like many other green leafy vegetables, fenugreek leaves are low in calories and high in nutrients making it a good choice for those trying to limit their calorie intake.
2. Fenugreek helps in weight loss
Fenugreek is many times used to complement diet and exercise to aid weight loss. Fenugreek aids weight loss due to its abilities to suppress appetite, provide energy in the short term and potentially modulate carbohydrate metabolism. Fenugreek water made from soaked fenugreek seeds is many times used to aid in losing weight.
3. Fenugreek lowers the risk of diabetics
Increasing daily intake of green leafy vegetables could significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. A study published in The BMJ (British Medical Journal) brought out that greater intake of green leafy vegetables was associated with a 14% reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes. Eating Fenugreek has a positive impact on controlling glucose metabolism though the exact mechanisms are not very clear and thus its use should be limited as an adjunct therapy in addition to the medicines.
4. Fenugreek promotes digestion
High fiber content of fenugreek is helpful in improving digestion and is good for the gastrointestinal system. The fiber content also promotes healthy bowel movements. Fenugreek seeds contain even much more amount of fiber than the leaves.
5. Helps to keep hypertension in check.
Fenugreek seeds are a rich source of potassium. Potassium can counter the blood pressure raising effects of sodium and thus fenugreek seeds powder on a daily basis can be effective in lowering high blood pressure.
6. Good for heart
Fenugreek is also known to improve heart health. Fenugreek leaves reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL) which in turn can prevent heart related problems like atherosclerosis, hypertension, heart attack and strokes.
7. Good for skin and has anti-aging properties
Fenugreek contains vitamin C and several compounds with antioxidant properties which delay the aging process caused by free radical damage. This helps to keep the skin young and wrinkle-free and prevent dark spots on the skin.
8. Boosts milk in lactating mothers
Many traditional medicine systems believe that fenugreek (methi) stimulates production of milk in lactating mothers. A systematic review and network-meta analysis results of 4 studies indicated that consumption of fenugreek significantly increased amount of the produced breast milk. However there are reports of fenugreek causing birth defect in rats in experimental studies and hence may not be suitable for pregnant mothers.
9. Good for bones
Fenugreek is rich in calcium and magnesium which are good for strong and healthy bones. Bone repair is assisted by consumption of the nutrients like calcium, magnesium and vitamin D which are required for bone health. Fenugreek is believed to soothe irritated internal surfaces and stimulate bone healing.
10. Helpful in painful menstrual periods.
A controlled trial at a University in Iran to study effects of fenugreek seed on the severity and systemic symptoms of painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhea) concluded that fenugreek is helpful in painful menstrual periods. A possible reason is that fenugreek contains some herbal compounds whose activity mimics the primary female hormone ‘estrogen’.
11. Fenugreek used as a poultice
Fenugreek is sometimes used as a poultice i.e. it is wrapped in cloth, warmed, and then applied to the skin to treat inflammation which may include swelling or pain, scars, wounds and and skin inflammations.
Fresh Fenugreek leaves are quite perishable. You can wrap up the leaves in a newspaper or an absorbent paper and keep in refrigerator to keep them usable for 3-4 days.
Incidents of food allergy to fenugreek have been reported and those with allergy to peanut, which is a major recognized food allergen, could be prone to it.
There are reports of fenugreek causing birth defect in rats in experimental studies and hence it may not be suitable for pregnant mothers. As per National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) coverage on Fenugreek, it should not be taken while pregnant because it may affect uterine contractions. Fenugreek may act like estrogen in the body and be unsafe for women with hormone-sensitive cancers.
Apart from considerable risks of taking fenugreek during pregnancy as mentioned above, side effects of fenugreek may include diarrhea, a maple-like smell to urine, breast milk, perspiration and a worsening of asthma.
To sum up
Fenugreek has been used as medicinal herb since ages for a variety of conditions and would rank as one of the oldest medicinal plants. Fenugreek leaves, its seeds and even the whole plant are used to prepare powders and extracts for medicinal use. It is used as a dietary supplement for many chronic conditions as well as to enhance the flavor of the food.
Fenugreek is a versatile plant whose fresh green leaves are used in the preparation of various delicious & healthy dishes. Its dried form and seeds are also used as an aromatic flavoring agent in cooking. This is an easy ingredient to incorporate into your food to enhance it’s taste and nutritional value. Do let us know in the comments below on how you use fenugreek in your daily life.
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