I have always enjoyed cooking with flavorful spices and herbs, especially those used within Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. One of my favorites is cumin.
Cumin is also known by its plant name Cuminum cyminum and it belongs to the plant family Apiaceae or Umbelliferae, which is also known as the parsley, celery, or carrot family. Cumin seeds are also called jeera. The history of the herb dates back 5,000 years, and it was highly regarded by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.
Cumin has a distinctive yellow-green-brown color with a sharp, pungent, and slightly sweet flavor. Cumin seeds have been used heavily in herbal medicine, and they are loaded with beneficial nutrients.
Nutrition Chart for Cumin Seeds
Cumin seeds are loaded with iron and dietary fiber. Other important nutrients in cumin seeds include manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Cumin seeds also contain small amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, and vitamins B1, B2, B3, and folate. Cumin seeds are a rich source of beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
The following is a nutrition chart for one tablespoon of whole cumin seeds.
|Vitamin A||76.2 IU||2.00%|
|Lutein + zeaxanthin||26.9mcg||N/A|
|* N/A—Not Applicable|
10 Health Benefits of Cumin Seeds
The phytochemicals in cumin seeds are thought to contain carminative, antiflatulent and antioxidant properties. Cumin seeds also contain several beneficial essential oils, including cuminaldehyde (4-isopropylbenzaldehyde), 2-ethoxy-3-isopropylpyrazine, pyrazines, 2-methoxy-3-sec-butylpyrazine, and 2-methoxy-3-methylpyrazine. Evidence also supports the many health benefits related to cumin seeds.
Let’s take a look at 10 of the most prominent health benefits of cumin seeds:
1. Beneficial for digestion
The active ingredients in cumin seeds may help digestion and improve gut motility by augmenting the secretion of gastrointestinal enzymes. The thymol and other essential oils in cumin seeds also help stimulate the salivary glands that help you digest food.
The fiber content in cumin seeds also helps stimulate enzyme secretion. Cumin has been used in traditional medicine for mild digestive disorders, including bloating, morning sickness, diarrhea, indigestion, flatulence, and dyspepsia.
2. Lowers cholesterol
The antioxidant activity in cumin is thought to help lower cholesterol. A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences found that cumin could significantly reduce oxidized low-density lipoprotein (ox-LDL). Another study published in the journal Pharmacological Research in 2002 found that cumin lowered pancreatic inflammatory markers, triglycerides, and total cholesterol in diabetic rats.
3. Effective for diabetes
Cumin seeds are also a good spice that diabetics should consider. A study published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism in 2005 found that cumin oil lowered blood sugar levels in rats induced with diabetes.
The researchers also hypothesized that cumin may increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin. In another study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology in 2010, researchers found that cumin extract showed greater effectiveness at reducing advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and blood sugar in diabetic rats than the anti-diabetic drug glibenclamide.
4. Boosts immunity
Cumin seeds contain iron, vitamin A and vitamin C, which can also help build the immune system. In a 2010 study published in the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions, researchers found that cumin is a potent immunomodulator that may lead to the recovery of immunocompromised individuals.
For the study, mice with compromised immune systems from induced stress received 25, 50, 100, and 200 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) oral doses of cumin on consecutive days. The cumin reduced adrenal gland size, elevated cortisol, and replenished depleted T-cells.
5. Helps fight symptoms of osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is most common in postmenopausal women. In a10-week study published in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine in 2008, researchers found that cumin extract had a similar anti-osteoporotic effect in rats when compared to a drug for menopause called estradiol.
However, cumin did not produce the weight gain linked with estradiol. An oral dosage of one gram (g) per kg of cumin improved microarchitecture and increased bone density in rats with osteoporosis.
6. Helps fight cancer
Cumin seeds also contain anticarcinogenic properties, including vitamin A and vitamin C. A study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology in 1992 suggested that cumin seeds may have valuable anticancer effects.
A 2003 study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer explained the chemopreventive potential of cumin seeds, which could be linked to its ability to control carcinogen metabolism.
7. Helps treat asthma
Cumin seeds also help treat respiratory disorders such as bronchitis and asthma. The essential oils in cumin create an effective anti-congestive and expectorant that loosens up phlegm and mucus accumulation in the respiratory tract.
A study published in the Journal of Medical Association of Thailand in 2010 found that the anti-inflammatory activity in cumin extract corresponded with the traditional use for inflammatory-related diseases, such as asthma.
8. May offer liver protection
Cumin seeds may also offer liver protection. For instance, a 2005 study published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism showed that cumin could protect the livers of rats from ethanol. The cumin prevented changes in the phospholipid fatty acid composition in the rat livers.
9. Improves cognitive function
Cumin seeds are also thought to increase cognitive performance and improve memory-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Stress is also known to causes forgetfulness and confusion.
A study published in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology in 2011 found protective effects of cumin against memory loss and the damaging effects of stress. For the study, 100, 200, and 300 mg per kg of body weight of cumin had been administered an hour before stress was induced in the rats.
10. Helps detox drug addiction
Opiates are drugs used for pain addiction, and common examples include oxycodone, morphine, and codeine. It is estimated that approximately nine percent of the population will misuse opiates during their lifetime.
Common symptoms of opiate withdrawal include:
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Abdominal cramping
- Diarrhea, vomiting, dilated pupils, and goosebumps.
A 2008 study published in the journal Neuroscience Letters suggested that cumin seeds essential oil could help reduce tolerance and dependence of morphine in mice.There are also other health benefits associated with cumin seeds.
For example, cumin seeds are also known to benefit conditions such as insomnia, anemia, libido and erectile dysfunction, cataracts, laryngitis, jaundice, obesity, and hypertension. Cumin seeds will also improve skin conditions, including boils, rashes, eczema, and psoriasis.
How to Incorporate Cumin Seeds in Your Daily Diet
You can easily blend cumin with other healthy spices. Here are a few easy ways to incorporate cumin seeds into your diet:
1. Cumin Recipe for Taco Seasoning
Want a healthier way to spice up taco Tuesdays? Cumin offers an appropriate solution.
- 1/4 cup of cumin powder
- 1/4 cup of chili powder
- 1 tablespoon of onion powder
- 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon of oregano lead powder
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- 1 teaspoon of ground pepper
- 1/4 cup of pink Himalayan sea salt
- Mix all ingredients in a jar and shake thoroughly (alternatively you can combine all of the ingredients and mix well in a food processor). Store mixture in an airtight jar. The mixture is a great paleo option for lettuce tacos. Add three tablespoons of the mixture to chicken or ground beef.
2. Chili Seasoning With Cumin
- 1/4 cup of cumin powder
- 1/4 cup of garlic powder
- 3 tablespoons of onion powder
- 1/2 cup of chili powder
- 1/4 cup of oregano
- 2 tablespoons of paprika
- 1 tablespoon of thyme
- Combine all ingredients and then store in any airtight container.
- Add to any chili recipe.
3. Chili with Kale and Cumin Seeds
The following is a delicious healthy vegan chili recipe that uses cumin to perfection. You can even substitute the spice suggestions in this recipe with the chili seasoning from the previous recipe.
- 2 cups of adzuki beans
- 1 medium sized leek, chopped
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, ghee, or coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon of whole cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon of whole coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoons of dry oregano
- 2 teaspoons of chili powder
- 4 cups of water
- tg-2sfh1 bunch of kale
- 1 teaspoon of grey Celtic sea salt
- Soak adzuki beans overnight.
- In a medium pot, sauté (on low heat) the chopped leek in the oil or ghee for about five minutes.
- Grind the cumin seeds and coriander seeds in a coffee grinder. Next add the turmeric, chili powder, and oregano to the leek.
- Drain and rinse the adzuki beans, and gently stir them in the sautéed leeks. Add water, and bring it to a boil. Once boiled, lower to a simmer.
- Cover and simmer for an hour, or until the beans have softened, while adding the grey Celtic sea salt halfway through the cooking.
- Wash and chop the kale. After the adzuki beans have softened, place the kale on top, and steam on medium heat for about five minutes, or until the kale has turned bright green. Finally, remove the vegan chili from the heat, and let stand for about five minutes. Mix and serve hot.
Why Cumin Should Be Part of Your Diet
Cumin is a great addition to any diet! After all, cumin seeds have been used as a condiment to create several dishes across various cultures, including Indian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Chinese, and Asian. Aside from adding it to spice combinations, cumin is a great addition to many other recipes such as chili, tacos, or fajitas.
When purchasing cumin seeds from the store it is a good idea to buy whole cumin seeds. Adulterated powdered cumin may have poorer quality. The freshest way to enjoy cumin seeds is to grind them with a coffee grinder. Cumin seeds can be stored in a dark, dry, and cool place in an airtight container for several months. Freshly grounded cumin should be stored in the refrigerator and used quickly before its flavor is lost.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Spices, cumin seed,” Nutrition Data web site; http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/spices-and-herbs/184/2, last accessed October 26, 2015.
Dhandapani, S., et al., “Hypolipidemic effect of Cuminum cyminum L. on alloxan-induced diabetic rats,” Pharmacological Research, September 2002; 46(3): 251-255.
Ghatreh Samani, K., et al., “Effects of cumin extract on oxLDL, paraoxanase 1 activity, FBS, total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL-C, LDL-C, Apo A1, and Apo B in the patients with hypercholesterolemia,” International Journal of Health Sciences, 2014; 8(1): 39-43.
Jagtap, A.G., et al., “Antihyperglycemic activity and inhibition of advanced glycation end formation by Cuminum cyminum in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats,” Food and Chemistry Toxicology, 2010; 48(8-9): 2030-2036, doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2010.04.048.
Chauhan, P.S., et al., “Stimulatory effects of Cuminum and flavonoid glycoside on Cyclosporine-A and restraint stress induced immune-suppression in Swiss albino mice,” Chemio-Biological Interactions, 2010; 185(1): 66-72, doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2010.02.016.