Have you heard of fenugreek? It is an annual plant that is a member of the legume family. It’s native to South Asia and the Mediterranean region. With a flavor profile described as sweet yet bitter, with a hint of maple, and pairing well with common spices such as cardamom, cloves, cumin, fennel, and turmeric, it’s no surprise that Fenugreek seeds and leaves are commonly used worldwide as a spice in cooking. The seeds are also used in traditional medicine to treat various health conditions, for they contain compounds that have been shown to have health benefits, including improved blood sugar control, reduced inflammation, and increased milk production in breastfeeding women.
Let’s take a closer look at the top 5 health benefits of this delicate yet powerful plant:
1. Blood sugar control: Fenugreek seeds have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, making it a beneficial addition for people with pre-diabetes and diabetes.
Fenugreek aids in lowering blood sugar levels by several mechanisms:
• Insulin secretion: Fenugreek seeds contain a compound called 4-hydroxyisoleucine that stimulates pancreatic insulin secretion, which can help regulate blood sugar levels.
• Slowing carbohydrate digestion: Fenugreek seeds contain soluble fiber that slows down the digestion of carbohydrates and the release of glucose into the bloodstream, which can help maintain stable blood sugar levels.
• Improving insulin sensitivity: Fenugreek seeds also contain compounds that have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which can help the body more effectively use insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
You might be wondering how much of these seeds is necessary to consume in order to reap the potential blood sugar health benefits they contain?
The recommended dose of fenugreek for blood sugar control varies based on several factors such as age, weight, and overall health. However, generally, the recommended dose is 4 to 6 grams of fenugreek seeds, taken two to three times a day. For example, a study conducted in 2017 found that 10 grams of Fenugreek seeds daily combined with a controlled diet and exercise protocol resulted in a significant reduction in fasting blood glucose levels.
It is important to keep in mind that fenugreek can interact with medications used to treat diabetes, so it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before using fenugreek for blood sugar control. Additionally, self-treating with fenugreek and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.
2. Increased milk production in breastfeeding women: Fenugreek is commonly used as a galactagogue, a substance that can increase milk production in breastfeeding women. A 2018 meta-analysis that reviewed the effects of Fenugreek as a galactagogue found that the results of 4 studies indicated that consumption of fenugreek significantly increased the amount of breast milk produced.
The recommended dose of fenugreek for increased milk production in breastfeeding women is typically 3 to 4 capsules of fenugreek seed, taken 3 to 4 times a day, totaling around 3,000 to 4,000 milligrams. However, individual needs may vary and it's best to consult a lactation specialist or a healthcare provider for a personalized recommendation.
It's important to note that some women may be allergic to fenugreek and that its effectiveness for increasing milk production can vary between individuals. It's also important to be cautious about using fenugreek supplements as there is limited research on their safety and efficacy for increasing milk production in breastfeeding women.
3. Cholesterol control: Some studies have shown that consuming fenugreek can help lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health. A 2020 systemic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the effect of fenugreek supplementation on human serum lipid profile, showed that Fenugreek reduced triglycerides and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL levels in diabetic subjects.
The cholesterol lowering effects of Fenugreek are due to its ability to reduce the absorption of cholesterol from the digestive tract. The soluble fiber in fenugreek seeds can bind to bile acids in the gut, which are produced from cholesterol. Bile acids are then eliminated from the body, causing the liver to use more cholesterol to produce more bile acids, leading to a decrease in blood cholesterol levels.
Fenugreek also contains compounds such as galactomannans that have been shown to have cholesterol-lowering effects. In addition, some studies suggest that consuming fenugreek can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, which are both factors that contribute to the development of heart disease.
If you are interested in adding Fenugreek to your health regimen for cholesterol control, keep in mind that the recommended dose of fenugreek for lowering cholesterol varies depending on several factors such as age, weight, and overall health. However, some studies have used doses ranging from 2 to 5 grams of fenugreek seeds, taken two to three times a day.
It's important to note that while fenugreek may have cholesterol-lowering effects, it is not a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle changes to manage cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease. Additionally, it's important to speak with a healthcare provider before using fenugreek to lower cholesterol, as it can interact with certain medications and may not be appropriate for everyone.
4. Reduced inflammation: Fenugreek also has anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to help reduce inflammation in the body. This is due in part to its content of compounds such as alkaloids, saponins, and diosgenin, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. A 2016 study showed that fenugreek seeds have significant anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic activities.
Inflammation is a natural response of the body to injury or infection, but chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of several diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders. By reducing inflammation, fenugreek may help reduce the risk of these and other chronic health conditions.
The recommended dose of fenugreek for reducing chronic inflammation in the body is not well established and may depend on several factors, such as age, weight, and overall health. Some studies have used doses ranging from 500 mg to 2 grams of fenugreek seed powder per day, taken orally.
It's important to speak with a healthcare provider before using fenugreek to reduce inflammation, as it can interact with certain medications and may not be appropriate for everyone. Additionally, while fenugreek may have anti-inflammatory effects, it is not a substitute for proper medical treatment and should not be used as a sole treatment for inflammatory conditions. People with chronic inflammatory conditions should work with a healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment.
5. Improved digestion: The fiber content in Fenugreek seeds can help improve digestion and prevent constipation. They may also help soothe an upset stomach and improve gut health.
Fenugreek may help improve gut health in several ways:
• Fiber content: Fenugreek seeds are a rich source of dietary fiber, which helps promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation.
• Prebiotic effect: Fenugreek seeds contain soluble fiber that acts as a prebiotic, feeding the beneficial bacteria in the gut and promoting their growth. This can help maintain a healthy gut microbiome, which is essential for overall health.
• Anti-inflammatory effects: Fenugreek has anti-inflammatory effects that may help reduce inflammation in the gut and improve gut health.
• Antioxidant effects: Fenugreek also contains antioxidants that help protect the gut from oxidative stress, which can damage the gut lining and contribute to gut distress.
The recommended dose of fenugreek to treat constipation varies depending on several factors, such as age, weight, and overall health. However, some studies have used doses ranging from 2 to 5 grams of fenugreek seeds, taken two to three times a day.
It's important to be aware that while fenugreek may have beneficial effects on gut health, it is not a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle changes to maintain gut health, such as eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fermented foods and high fiber pulses as well as staying hydrated. Additionally, it is recommended to speak with a healthcare provider before using fenugreek to improve gut health, as it can interact with certain medications and may not be appropriate for everyone.