Cumin is a flowering plant native to territory including Middle East and stretching east to India. Its seeds are used in the cuisines of many cultures in both whole and ground form. It is the second most popular spice after black pepper.
Although the small cumin seed looks rather unassuming, it packs a punch when it comes to flavor, which can be described as peppery with slight citrus overtones. Cumin’s unique flavor complexity has made it an integral spice in the cuisines of Mexico, India, Middle East and Africa.
Cumin is native to Egypt and has been cultivated in the Middle East, India, China, and Mediterranean countries for millennia. Throughout history, cumin has played an important role as a food and medicine and has been a cultural symbol with varied attributes.
Cumin was mentioned in the Bible not only as a seasoning for soup and bread, but also as a form of payment priests. In ancient Egypt, cumin was not only used as a culinary spice, it was also an ingredient used to mummify pharaohs.
Cumin seeds were highly honored as seasoning in ancient Greek and Roman cultures. The ancient Greeks kept cumin at the dining table in its own container (much as pepper is frequently kept today), and this practice continues in Morocco. Cumin’s popularity was partly due to the fact that its peppery flavor made it a viable replacement for black pepper, which was very expensive and hard to come by. Cumin was also noted for both its medicinal and cosmetic properties.
During the Middle Age cumin was one of the most common spices used in Europe. Around that time, cumin also became recognized as a symbol of love and fidelity. People carried cumin in their pockets when attending wedding ceremonies, and married soldiers were sent off to war with a loaf of cumin bread baked by their wives. Cumin’s use for fortifying love is also represented in certain Arabic traditions in which a paste of ground cumin, pepper and honey is thought to have aphrodisiac properties.
Cumin was introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese colonists. Several different types of cumin are known, but the most famous ones are black and green cumin.
The main producers of cumin are China, India and Mexico. The three prominent varieties of cumin seed available in the market are Iranian, Indian and Middle Eastern. They vary in seed shading, amount of oil, and flavor.
Uses Of Cumin
Cumin can be used ground or as whole seeds. It imparts an earthy, warming and aromatic character to food, making it a staple in stews and soups, as well as spiced gravies such as curry and chili. It is also used as an ingredient in some pickles and pastries. It can also be found in some cheeses, and in some traditional bread varieties.
Aside from cooking, cumin has also been used medicinally in many parts of the world for hundreds of years. In some Southeast Asian countries, it is used to help with digestion, coughs, pain, and liver health. In Iran, people use cumin to treat seizures, while people in Tunisia use it to help fight infections and lower blood pressure.
Nutritional Value Of Cumin
Cumin seeds provide high amounts of fat (especially monounsaturated fat), protein, and dietary fiber. Vitamins B, vitamin E, and several dietary minerals including iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus are present in substantial Daily Value amounts.
Health Benefits Of Cumin
Interest in cumin has been growing as newer research supports some of its acclaimed health benefits, some of which are as follows.
Recent studies indicate cumin may be effective in losing weight. One study found that overweight and obese women who consumed 3 grams (g) of cumin powder in yogurt daily for 3 months had significant decreases in body weight, waist size, and body fat.
Cumin also has the effect of lowering cholesterol. The study mentioned above also found that consuming 3 g of cumin powder per day resulted in lower total cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. The women who consumed the cumin powder also had higher HDL or “good” cholesterol levels.
Cumin is conducive in controlling blood sugar. A study involving adults with type 2 diabetes looked at the effects of cumin essential oil on blood sugar. It was found that cumin-oil lowered blood sugar, insulin, and hemoglobin A1c levels of the study group. Improvements were also seen in the signs of insulin resistance and inflammation.
Irritable bowel syndrome:
A small pilot study looked at the effect of consuming cumin essential-oil drops on symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Study participants noted improvements in many symptoms, such as stomach pain and bloating. Participants with IBS who had constipation as a symptom had more frequent bowel movements, whereas those with diarrhea as a symptom had fewer bowel movements.
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