Fenugreek (Trigonellafeonum-graecum L.) is an annual dicotyledon leguminous crop. It is used both as spice and herb. Fenugreek’s origin is from Eastern Europe and parts of Asia and now it is cultivated worldwide. Its leaves are used as leafy vegetable and seeds as a condiment.
Fenugreek is one of the oldest medicinal plants known to man. Fenugreek seeds have a unique bitter taste because of the alkaloids and oil components present. Defatted fenugreek does not have this bitter taste. In India, it is commonly called Methi.
Nutritional value of fenugreek seeds
Fenugreek seeds are mostly used in small quantities as a condiment. Fenugreek contains about 23 % protein, fat 6 %, and 58 % carbohydrate. Fenugreek is a good source of fiber about 24 %. It also supplies a fair amount of calcium and iron. But the amount of fenugreek we use in our foods is not much, therefore we cannot depend on it for nutrients.
The protein in fenugreek is rich in amino acid lysine and the protein is comparable to soybean protein in its quality. Among the plant protein sources, soybean is one of the best quality proteins available. Sotolon is the main chemical component which is responsible for the unique smell of fenugreek. Fenugreek contains fat in which some is fixed oil and some is volatile oil.
Fenugreek seeds are rich in fiber content. It contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Fenugreek is rich in mucilaginous fiber which is mostly made up of galactomannans.
The benefits contributed by the fiber component of fenugreek are
- The fiber binds to toxins in the food and protects the colon mucus membrane from carcinogenic causing toxins
- Helps in insulin secretion because of 4- hydroxyisoleucine
- Helps to reduce glucose absorption in the intestine and manage blood glucose levels
- Absorbs moisture and helps in easy movement of stools
Therapeutic value of fenugreek
Fenugreek contributes positively to our health in several ways. Apart from the dietary fiber, it contains insignificant amounts quite a few minor components which promote health via various mechanisms.
The bioactive components also called phytochemicals present in fenugreek are
- Alkaloids such as
- Free unnatural amino acids (4- hydroxyisoleucine)
- Spirostanols and Furastanols (diosgenin, gitogenin and yamogenin)
The different health-promoting actions the bioactive components and the dietary fiber of fenugreek have in our body are
- Lactation inducing.
Fenugreek is a galactagogue
Some plant sources have galactagogue components, one such plant source is fenugreek. Galactogogues are substances that are used to induce, maintain, and increase milk production. Fenugreek is one of the most commonly used herbal preparations as a galactagogue.
One of the mechanisms suggested how fenugreek increases milk secretion is because of the significant levels of phytoestrogens present in fenugreek. Diosgenin is a type of steroidal sapogenin which is present is fenugreek which probably is responsible for the increase in milk secretion. Another mechanism suggested is stimulation of endogenous hormones secretion that may, in turn, helps in increasing milk production.
Fenugreek seeds and its ground powder both are commonly used in Indian cuisine. They are used in products such as pickles, vegetable dishes, and spice powders. Make sure that your pantry is stocked with fenugreek seeds and powder so that you can use them regularly as part of a balanced diet.