Cumin nutrition is broad and its benefits extensive, making it an essential ingredient to include in the diet. But what exactly is cumin? Cumin is an annual, fragrant, and medicinal spice from the same family as parsley and fennel. It’s available as either ground powder or whole dry seeds. It’s native to the Middle East and India and a staple ingredient in African, Mexican, and Indian dishes.
Cumin has also been used as a preservative and a flavoring agent beyond its distinct earthy, nutty, warm, and spicy taste. Traditionally, it has been used to promote digestion and ease respiratory conditions, among other benefits. Modern research is also showing that cumin indeed contains innumerable health benefits.
Cumin is a good source of vitamins and minerals, with a tablespoon providing about
- Calories: 23
- Sodium: 10 milligrams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Protein: 1 gram
- Dietary fiber: 1 gram
- Carbohydrate: 3 grams
- Iron: 4 milligrams, or 22 percent of daily requirements
- Manganese:2 milligrams, or 10 percent of the daily requirement
- Calcium: 56 milligrams. Or 6 percent of the daily requirement
- Magnesium: 22 milligrams, or 5 percent of the daily requirement
- Potassium: 107 milligrams, or 3 percent of the daily requirements
- Phosphorus: 30 milligrams, or 3 percent of the daily requirement
- Copper:1 milligrams, or 3 percent of the daily requirement
- Vitamin A: 76 IUs, or 2 percent of the daily requirements
Cumin Seed Health Benefits
Cumin contains three main compounds: cymene, aldehyde, and terpenoids, which gives it its rich beneficial health profile.
1. Promotes digestion
Cumin has been used to relieve flatulence and improve indigestion.
It enhances the release of digestive juices like bile which helps break down fat and other nutrients. It also stimulates the activities of digestive enzymes involved in the proper digestion of food.
In one study, 57 patients with IBS were put on 20 drops of cumin essential oil daily and were to feel a questionnaire 2-4 weeks after starting the treatment and 2-4 weeks after stopping the treatment.
Participants recorded improved symptoms, including bloating, abdominal pain, fecal urgency, incomplete defecation, and mucus discharge in the stool.
Whole cumin seeds and ground cumin are also commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to stimulate digestion, reduce flatulence, and eliminate toxins. A study published in Digestive Diseases & Sciences revealed that cumin effectively treats irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by relieving gastrointestinal distress caused by abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
Another study found that cumin powder could relieve IBS-related abdominal pain through its anti-inflammatory and anti-spasm properties. Furthermore, a small clinical trial published in Phytotherapy Research found that a combination of fennel and cumin seeds significantly improved symptoms of IBS when compared to a placebo group.
2. Promotes healthy skin
One of cumin’s potential health benefits is its role in maintaining healthy skin. Research shows that cumin seeds contain a good amount of antioxidants. Antioxidants like vitamin E help neutralize free radicals, which are harmful compounds that cause cell damage, including skin damage.
They may also boost collagen production, helping your skin stay firm and young-looking. To get more antioxidant benefits from cumin, you can use it as part of an antioxidant-rich spice blend. Sprinkle some on salads or vegetables while cooking for an added boost of flavor.
In addition, cumin contains antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties that soothe the skin and prevent inflammatory skin conditions and allergies.
Cumin oil also has moisture-retaining properties, which help maintain skin moisture and elasticity.
3. Boosts immunity
Cumin contains vitamin C, which is powerful at stimulating your white blood cells. White blood cells fight disease-causing pathogens in the body, thus boosting the immune system.
In one study, participants who consumed cumin saw a 30% increase in their white blood cell count. Besides the high vitamin C levels, high white blood cells could be due to their active ingredient, Cuminaldehyde, which has also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on cells and tissues.
Vitamin C also acts as a powerful antioxidant together with vitamin A; these help fight free radicles and prevent oxidative stress that may otherwise cause disease formation.
Furthermore, it contains antifungal and antibacterial properties that may help fight infections and prevent diseases.
Another component of cumin, alpha-pinene, helps reduce mucus and clear airways, thus protecting against respiratory conditions.
4. May prevent foodborne illnesses
Like other spices such as oregano, clove, thyme, and cinnamon, cumin contains antimicrobial properties that prevent and fight against food spoilage, bacteria, and fungi.
Cumin is one ingredient in many cuisines that plays a big role in food safety. Many spices and herbs prevent foodborne illnesses by killing bacteria, especially those found on meats.
Adding a dash or two of cumin to your meals can help protect you from foodborne illnesses. Cumin has been proven to reduce E. coli and salmonella bacteria in foods, giving you peace of mind while enjoying a good meal with friends and family. Also, when cumin undergoes digestion, it releases Megalomicin, a compound with antibiotic properties, thus offering more protection against infections.
The good health properties associated with cumin make it an indispensable spice for any kitchen. However, spices should always be stored properly to maintain their flavor and keep them effective at preventing illness. Storing spices away from heat and light will keep them preserved longer so they can perform their duties effectively.
5. May prevent diabetes
Cumin can help reduce blood sugar levels, preventing people from developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body cells become insulin-resistant, causing high blood sugar levels. Eating cumin regularly can help keep your blood sugar in check and lower your risk for type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, research suggests that adding cumin to your diet may improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes. People with diabetes who added half a teaspoon of ground cumin powder to their food daily had significantly lower fasting blood glucose than those who didn’t consume any.
And because it helps balance blood sugar levels, cumin may even have positive effects on cholesterol levels. A study published in Phytotherapy Research found that rats fed high cholesterol diets supplemented with 10 percent whole cumin seed powder experienced significant reductions in total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides compared to rats not receiving any cumin supplementation.
In a 2017 study on patients with type 2 diabetes, administering 50-100 mg of cumin capsules a day resulted in decreased fasting blood sugars, serum insulin, and HbA1c.
Cumin seeds have also been shown to pose anti-diabetic properties and may help regulate glucose levels. Additionally, they have been shown to improve insulin metabolism and decrease weight and BMI.
6. Aids weight loss
Not only does cumin help give your food a bit more flavor, but it’s also great for aiding weight loss. It contains appetite suppressing and thermogenic properties that boost your metabolism and help burn calories faster.
In a 2012 study, researchers found that when people took 0.5g/kg of cumin seeds for one month, they lost more weight than those who did not take any cumin supplementation. Researchers believe these results may be due to several active compounds in cumin seeds, including thymoquinone and phytosterols like beta-sitosterol and campesterol.
In addition, including cumin in your diet may help control glucose levels, reduce insulin levels, lower cholesterol, and boost metabolism, which may help you lose weight.
In one clinical trial, consuming a cumin supplement three times a day for eight weeks resulted in reduced insulin and decreased body weight compared to a placebo in obese individuals.
In another study, consuming yogurt with 3 grams of cumin powder led to weight loss in overweight women compared to those that took plain yogurt.
7. Prevents cancer
Research suggests that an active compound in cumin, thymoquinone, may effectively prevent cancer. Animal studies have shown that it can inhibit tumor growth by affecting some proteins related to carcinogenesis and metastasis. Thymoquinone also reduces inflammation caused by colon cancer cells.
Cumin is also rich in terpenes, phenols, flavonoids, and alkaloids, which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect against oxidative stress that may cause cell damage and mutations leading to cancer.
Vitamin C and A in cumin may also help scavenge these radicals, thus lowering the risk even further.
8. Boosts iron intake
Iron is essential for different functions, including oxygen transportation, boosting the immune system, and aiding energy production.
A deficiency may lead to anemia which is characterized by shortness of breath, fatigue, cold hands and feet, general weakness, pale skin, headache, dizziness, and chest pain.
Regular consumption of iron-rich foods such as cumin may help improve your intake and prevent complications.
They can also make a great addition in those already suffering from anemia or in susceptible groups such as women within the menstrual bracket and children to help support their growth.
9. May improve cholesterol
A study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences found that consuming five drops of cumin extracts three times a day for 45 days led to a decrease in bad cholesterol.
In another study, consuming 75 mg of cumin daily resulted in decreased triglyceride levels. High triglycerides may contribute to the thickening of the arterial walls, a condition known as atherosclerosis. This may increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease.
10. Promotes heart health
A study published in The Indian Journal of Medical Research shows that people who consumed cumin every day had a significantly lower risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who didn’t.
Another study found that just smelling ground cumin for 20 minutes lowered blood pressure significantly. This is likely due to the volatile oils it contains, which improve circulation and relax blood vessels. In fact, some studies show it can work just as well as certain drugs at lowering hypertension.
Studies have also shown that whole cumin seeds can lower cholesterol levels by more than 10 percent and reduce triglycerides by 25 percent: these two are the main contributors to heart disease.
11. Improves arthritis symptoms
Studies show that 3-n-butylphthalide (3nB), a compound in cumin, inhibits two chemicals that promote inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Studies also show that both cumin and turmeric can reduce joint inflammation and other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
The benefits may also extend to osteoarthritis, for which cumin is often recommended as an alternative treatment. In addition to anti-inflammatory properties, cumin has been shown to have anti-oxidant and analgesic effects, which help lower the symptoms of arthritis.
How Should You Use Cumin
You can enjoy cumin in a variety of ways, such as
- Fragrant rice dishes
One of my favorite spices, cumin, is great in rice dishes. I add it to basmati rice with fresh herbs and lemon juice while cooking, which gives it a delicious earthy flavor. Try adding it to your next serving of brown or white rice, or use ground cumin instead of salt in your fried rice recipes. It’s also a must-have ingredient for Mexican-style red beans and rice.
- Delicious bread
If you’re not a fan of bland, dry bread, try sprinkling some cumin seeds for an extra layer of flavor.
- Cumin water
Drinking cumin water regularly is a great way to get healthy and naturally increase your metabolism.
Simply soak cumin seeds in drinking water overnight. Sieve in the morning, and add lemon juice and honey to give it a refreshing and sweet taste.
For warm cumin water, boil 2 cups of water, add three tablespoons of cumin and boil for 5 minutes. Strain, add some lemon juice, and drink warm.
- Ground cumin can be used in bean dishes, stews, or fillings for dishes like tamales.
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Whole and ground cumin has been used since ancient times to flavor food and as medicine.
It’s rich in iron, fiber, calcium, magnesium, and manganese. In modern research, cumin has been shown to improve digestion, boost immunity, prevent diabetes, and aid weight loss.
It can also lower cancer risk, improve cholesterol, prevent foodborne diseases, and promote healthy skin.
You can easily incorporate cumin into the diet, such as in stews, loaves of bread, and filings.