The health benefits of fenugreek are many and include relief from anemia, stomach disorders, respiratory disorders, oral ailments, diabetes, , wounds, and insomnia. It is beneficial in lactation and helps in improving digestion and hair health. It is also shown to reduce cholesterol levels and protect heart health, while simultaneously boosting the immune system and protecting against flu and various infections.
What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is an annual plant that is also known as methi in many places in the world. It is a member of the bean family and its scientific family name is Fabaceae. It is native to the Middle and Near East and is widely used in the Indian . This annual plant has small round leaves. There is even evidence that the ancient Egyptians understood the benefits of this herb since its seeds have been found in tombs, particularly of Tutankhamen. This plant is grown in countries across the globe, but the majority is cultivated and consumed in India.
Serving Size : Nutrient Value Water [g] 8.84 Energy [kcal] 323 Protein [g] 23 Total lipid (fat) [g] 6.41 Carbohydrate, by difference [g] 58.35 Fiber, total dietary [g] 24.6 Calcium, Ca [mg] 176 Iron, Fe [mg] 33.53 Magnesium, Mg [mg] 191 Phosphorus, P [mg] 296 Potassium, K [mg] 770 Sodium, Na [mg] 67 Zinc, Zn [mg] 2.5 Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg] 3 Thiamin [mg] 0.32 Riboflavin [mg] 0.37 Niacin [mg] 1.64 Vitamin B-6 [mg] 0.6 Folate, DFE [µg] 57 Vitamin B-12 [µg] 0 Vitamin A, RAE [µg] 3 Vitamin A, IU [IU] 60 Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg] 0 Vitamin D [IU] 0 Fatty acids, total saturated [g] 1.46 Fatty acids, total trans [g] 0 Cholesterol [mg] 0 Sources include : USDA
Fenugreek Nutrition Facts
According to the USDA Nutrient Database, fenugreek contains a variety of beneficial nutrients, including iron, magnesium, manganese, and copper, as well as vitamin B6, protein, and dietary fiber. It also contains , powerful , including choline, trigonelline, yamogenin, gitogenin, diosgenin, tigogenin, and neotigogens. Most of the health benefits of fenugreek are due to the presence of saponins and fibers in it.
Health Benefits of Fenugreek
Fenugreek is used for herbal healing and has many important health benefits that are explained in greater detail, below.
India’s traditional Ayurvedic physicians often prescribe fenugreek to nursing mothers. This benefit is attributed to the presence of diosgenin in it. Research in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, New York, has successfully concluded that including fenugreek tea to the diet can help new mothers in increasing lactation.
Fenugreek extract capsules help in increasing the amount of milk that is produced by the breasts. The magnesium and vitamin content in it also helps improve the milk’s quality to keep the infant healthy. Each capsule is approximately 600 milligrams, and 2-3 should be taken at once at three different times of the day.
Note: Consult your doctor before adding fenugreek capsules/seeds in your diet during lactation.
Reduces Menstrual Discomfort
Fenugreek is considered a potent substance that eases the process ofand relieves the associated symptoms. It is an emmenagogue, which means that it can open up obstructed menses and give relief from menstrual disorders.
Minimizes Symptoms of Menopause
Fenugreek contains the chemicals diosgenin and estrogenic isoflavones, which are similar to the female sex hormone, estrogen. Loss of estrogen can cause menopausal symptoms. So, eating it may help reduce menopausal symptoms like mood swings, depression, cramps, and abnormal hunger pangs. It helps monitor a number of other hormones as well, keeping many other bodily processes in line as well.
Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Research published in The British Journal of Nutrition shows that fenugreek consumption has efficacy in helping reduce levels. It helps reduce the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol significantly, which can prevent various conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. It is a rich source of fiber, which scrapes excess cholesterol off of the arteries and blood vessels of the body. By reducing cholesterol content in the , you reduce the risk of formation of blood clots.
Fenugreek possesses anti- properties, particularly with regards to breast cancer and colon cancer prevention. The steroid diosgenin present in the herb has been specifically linked to colon cancer prevention. Furthermore, various non-starch like saponins, hemicellulose, mucilage, tannin, and pectin, lower cholesterol levels and inhibit the bile salts from being reabsorbed by the colon. This can bind to the toxins and protect the colon’s mucous membrane, which can reduce colorectal cancer and other conditions that can negatively affect the colon.
In some studies, fenugreek has been found to exhibit anticancer effects and may also aid in inducing apoptosis or programmed cell death.
The journal Phytotherapy Research has conducted research on the effects of fenugreek on appetite. They found that the natural soluble fiber, galactomannan, found in fenugreek helps suppress appetite by making you feel full.
Reduces Cardiovascular Risks
Fenugreek seeds contain 25 percent galactomannan which is a type of natural soluble fiber that helps prevent heart diseases.
Fenugreek extract helps alleviate type I and type II diabetes. A pilot study suggests that the addition of fenugreek seeds to the diet of diabetics helped in lowering blood glucose level. Due to the presence of the natural fiber galactomannan, the herb slows down the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. The amino acid 4-hydroxy isoleucine is found in fenugreek, which regulates the release of insulin. This helps prevent the plunges and peaks of blood sugar in diabetics; 15-20 grams of fenugreek is usually recommended for controlling blood sugar on a daily basis.
Traditional Chinese medicine recommends the use of fenugreek for patients suffering from various kidney conditions. According to an animal study, fenugreek may help reduce the amount of calcification of kidneys and reduce the risk of developing kidney stones. However, more research would be needed to support the claim.
Relieves Sore Throat
Fenugreek’s soothing mucilage can help relieve a sore throat, associated pain, and cough.
Fenugreek seeds contain a gumming substance called mucilage and when mixed with water, mucilage expands and becomes a gelatinous salve that helps in providing relief from irritation.
Other benefits of fenugreek include the following:
- Treats wounds, inflammation, and ailments.
- Helps in battling free radicals due to its antioxidant properties.
- In Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, it is used for inducing labor and aiding digestion.
- Helps improve the body’s overall metabolism and health.
- External application of fenugreek gives relief from irritated skin and other conditions.
- Acts as a febrifuge and gives relief from muscle aches.
How much fenugreek to take?
If you are taking fenugreek for a particular reason, there can be some restriction or guidelines for the usage amount. For example, if you want to take fenugreek to increase milk production (as a lactating mother), you can take up to 5500 milligrams every day (about 2-3 standard capsules 3 times per day). However, if you are simply using fenugreek as a general health booster, much lower doses are recommended and required to feel the effects.
You can use and consume fenugreek in many ways that include:
- The leaves can be dried and used as herbs.
- Fenugreek seeds can be eaten whole and are often used as toppings for certain dishes or soups.
- The seeds are primarily used as a spice and can be found sprinkled on top of many Asian dishes.
- These seeds can also be used in powdered form as a flavoring agent in curry pastes, soups, and stews.
- The plant matter itself can be used as a vegetable, like sprouts and microgreens.
- Fenugreek powder can also be used to make a healthy, energizing tea.
Word of Caution: Fenugreek is safe and is widely known as a great tonic for various parts of the body. However, fenugreek may cause mild gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, gas, and indigestion in some, particularly in those who are allergic to it. It is not recommended during pregnancy because it may lead to miscarriage due to its strong effect on the female reproductive system.