Cumin is an often underrated and misunderstood spice. That deep heat in your Mexican rice? Cumin. That earthy flavor in your hummus? Cumin. That tingling spice in your curry? You guessed it, cumin. It’s one of the most popular spices around the world and, due to its popularity, it has crossed culinary genres from savory dishes to baking and is even used in tea. But it’s not just cumin’s strong and aromatic flavors that make it so appealing — this spice also offers up many health benefits for your body and mind!
Cumin is native to a large part of the Middle East from Syria through eastern India. It was introduced to the Americas by colonists from Spain and Portugal. The cumin seed is harvested from the cumin flowering plant in the Apiaceae family, which is also the parsley family. The seeds — yellowish-brown boat-shaped fruits resembling caraway seeds — can be used whole to infuse cumin flavors into oils and sauces or they can be ground into powder.
While the wheat-colored cumin seed is the most popular and widely used, the black cumin seed is coveted for its black seed oil. Black cumin originates from northern Africa, Eastern Europe, and southern Asia. Because of its bitter taste, black cumin lacks the culinary diversity and appealing flavors that common cumin is loved for.
One tablespoon of cumin offers a broad range of essential nutrients including protein, fat, and a small amount of dietary fiber. Cumin also offers vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as niacin, folate, choline, and healthy fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6. And when it comes to minerals, cumin packs a punch! Looking at one tablespoon of cumin, we find calcium (55.9 mg), iron (4.0 mg), magnesium (22 mg), phosphorous (30 mg), potassium (107 mg), sodium (10.1 mg), and trace amounts of zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
3 Health Benefits of Cumin
The medicinal uses of cumin can be traced thousands of years in the past. Many cultures, from ancient Egypt and Greece to modern-day India, still use cumin seed to treat a variety of health issues. Yet, recent researching concerning the medicinal and nutritional properties of cumin bring to light how important cumin actually is for our diet. Here are some of the health benefits of cumin!
1. Weight Management
Cumin has been shown to help with healthy weight management by staving off cravings and amplifying your metabolism. Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences performed a study that discovered women who “incorporated cumin into their diet while leading a healthy lifestyle decreased their body fat percentage by 14.64% while those who just led a healthier lifestyle only decreased theirs by 4.91%.”
2. Healthy Sleep
The use of cumin seeds for insomnia is an ancient technique used in India. The seeds have been shown to invigorate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes, which aid digestion and boost your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. When it comes to treating insomnia, cumin seeds ease bodily stressors by reducing fatigue, calming your digestive tract, and keeping your body nutritionally balanced.
3. Digestive Aid
In 2004, Mysore University published a study that shows cumin’s positive effects on dyspepsia and diarrhea, both of which are incredibly uncomfortable and possibly dangerous digestive conditions. The key to digestion is the body’s ability to break down the foods you eat. During the study, it was found that cumin inspired the liver to create more bile. Bile aids in the “breakdown of fats and the absorption of nutrients,” both of which are necessary for healthy digestion.
Cooking with Cumin
Cumin has been used in various forms throughout human history. In India, the seeds are chewed as a digestive aid. Ancient Egyptians were found to have used cumin as both a culinary spice and as a preservative for mummification. A Moroccan or Greek dining table will usually have a small shaker of cumin, very similar to the Western use of salt and pepper. Western cultures have taken to using cumin for both cooking and baking. Here are some recipes to give you ideas for how to use cumin!
Sweet and Spicy Watermelon Curry/One Green Planet
Get traditional with your cumin cooking and try your hand at curry! The stew-like consistency of curry allows cumin to soak, which helps to release the hearty, earthy, and rich flavors while also indulging your meal with nutrients. You can also get creative with curry recipes! Add vegetables, tofu, or even some of your favorite spices to layer with the cumin flavor. To top of your curry meal, make some Cumin Flatbread or Trini Split Pea Stuffed Flatbread. Try this Sweet and Spicy Watermelon Curry, this Curry Spiced Thai Noodles, this Indian Chickpea Flour Dumpling Curry, this Fresh Turmeric Root Curry, this Black Chana Vedic Curry, or this Punjabi Chana Masala.
One Pot Mexican Lentils and Rice/One Green Planet
Cumin is a great addition to hearty recipes. Its strong, spicy flavor pairs well with grains and it packs an earthy punch that’s great for refrigeration and freezing. Try some of these great chili recipes with cumin: High-Protein Jamaican Jerk Chili With Tempeh, Quinoa Chili, Moroccan Red Lentil Soup, One Pot Mexican Lentils and Rice, Crock Pot 3-Bean Pumpkin Chili, Mujaddara, Harissa, Three Bean and Sweet Potato Chili.
Moroccan-Style Stuffed Butternut Squash/One Green Planet
Cumin offers a great opportunity to explore the world of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean. For thousands of years, these cultures cultivated the culinary uses of cumin and therefore offer creative recipes that are unique to the west. From hummus to falafel and beyond, try your hand at some of these recipes from across the globe: Poached Tofu Shakshuka, Chia and Fennel Green Pizza With Kale Pesto and Hummus, Creamy Zucchini Hummus, Moroccan-Style Stuffed Butternut Squash, Healthy Spinach Feta, Mediterranean Eggplant Boats, Pav Bahji Polenta Brioche Buns, or Savory Chickpea Flour Pancakes With Tamarind Syrup.
For more cumin-based recipes we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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