Fennel seed nutrition facts
Sweet, anise-flavored fennel seed along with mugwort, nettle, thyme etc, has been revered as one of nine Anglo-Saxon sacred herbs for its health benefits. The spice is one of the most sought after ingredient in many popular cuisines all over the Mediterranean regions.
Tender perennial fennel is a member of parsley or umbelliferae family, a broad family of herbs and spices which has some common members such as caraway, dill, anise, cumin… etc. Scientific name of fennel is Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce.
Fennel is native to Southern Europe and grown extensively all over Europe, Middle-Eastern, China, India, and Turkey. This herbaceous plant grows up to 2 meters (about 6 feet) in height with deep green feathery (lacy) leaves and golden yellow flowers. The seeds, which appear similar to anise seeds, feature oblong or curved like comma shape, about 3-4 mm long, light brown color and fine stripes over their surface. Fennel seeds are harvested when the seed heads turn brown.
In general, seeds are harvested during early hours of the day to avoid spilling of seeds on the ground. As in caraway, the cut plants staked until they dry and then, the seeds are threshed, processed and packed.
Fennerl bulb (Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum), used as vegetable, is closely related to seed fennel grown for its anise flavored sweet taste fronds.
Health benefits of fennel seeds
Fennel symbolizes longevity, courage, and strength. In addition to its use as medicinal values, fennel has many health benefiting nutrients essential compounds, anti-oxidants, dietary fiber, minerals and vitamins.
Fennel seeds indeed contain numerous flavonoid anti-oxidants like kaempferol and quercetin. These compounds function as powerful anti-oxidants by removing harmful free radicals from the body thus protect from cancers, infection, aging and degenerative neurological diseases.
Like caraway, fennel seeds are rich source of dietary fiber. 100 g seeds provide 39.8 g of fiber. Much of this fiber is metabolically inert insoluble fiber, which helps increase bulk of the food by absorbing water throughout the digestive system and easing constipation condition.
In addition, dietary fibers bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in colon, thus help lower serum LDL cholesterol levels. Together with flavonoid anti-oxidants, fiber composition of fennel helps protect the colon mucus membrane from cancers.
Fennel seeds have many health benefiting volatile essential oil compounds such as anethole, limonene, anisic aldehyde, pinene, myrcene, fenchone, chavicol, and cineole. These active principles in the fennel seeds are known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties.
Fennel seeds are concentrated source of minerals like copper, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc, and magnesium. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation. Zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion and nucleic acid synthesis. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the powerful anti-oxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
The seeds indeed are storehouse for many vital vitamins. Vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C as well as many B-complex vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and niacin particularly are concentrated in the fennel seeds.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||14.87 g||48%|
|Dietary Fiber||39.8 g||104%|
|Vitamin A||135 IU||4.5%|
|Vitamin C||21 mg||35%|
Selection and storage
Fennel seeds are available year around in the markets either in the form of seeds or in processed powder form. In the store, buy whole fennel seeds instead of powder since, oftentimes it may contain adulterated spicy powders.
Store dry fennel seeds as you do in case of other seeds like caraway, dill etc. Place whole seeds in a clean air-seal container and store in cool, dry, dark place. Ground and powdered fennel should be stored in the refrigerator in airtight containers and should be used as early as possible since it loses its flavor quickly.
Fennel has long been used as a remedy for flatulence and indigestion in traditional medicines.
Fennel seed decoction or added as spice in food has been found to increase breast milk secretion in nursing mothers.
Fennel gripe water used in newborn babies to relieve colic pain and help aid digestion.
- Fennel seed oil is used to relieve coughs, bronchitis and as massage oil to cure joint pains.
Fennel seeds exude anise like sweet fruity-aroma when rubbed between fingers. Its herb parts including soft growing tops, root-bulb, dried stalks, and seeds are used extensively in wide variety of cuisines all over the world.
In order to keep the fragrance and flavor intact, fennel seed is generally ground just before preparing dishes or whole seeds are lightly roasted before using them in a recipe.
Here are some serving tips:
Fennel seed is widely used as a savory spice. It is principally added in cooking as a condiment and flavoring base.
They are widely used in fish dishes, cheese spreads, and vegetable dishes.
In India, its seeds are being used as part of curry powder (Bengali paanch pooran). In addition, sugarcoated seeds (saunf) used as after food chewing condiment to improve digestion in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Like caraway, fennel seeds are used to flavor breads, dough, cakes, biscuits, and cheese.
- Along with anise, fennel is an important ingredient used in absinthe, an alcoholic beverage.
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