Cumin seeds are believed to be the second most widely used kind of spice after black pepper. This plant, native to Egypt, has been highly appreciated for its culinary, medicinal, and cosmetic properties for about 5,000 years. As mentioned in the Bible, it was used not only as a seasoning, but also as a currency.
The seeds, being pleasantly aromatic, have a warmly bitter and nutty taste. They belong to the same family of plants as caraway seeds, dill, and parsley. Nowadays, this spice is an inseparable part of many national cuisines – Middle-Eastern, Mediterranean, and Asian.
Nutritional Value of Cumin Seeds
The numerous medicinal properties of this plant are accounted to its extreme richness in health beneficial nutrients. The seeds are rich in various phytochemicals with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory features. They contain healthful oils and dietary fiber. Minerals such as iron, copper, calcium, manganese, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and some others make the seeds useful in preventing and fighting numerous health disorders. Vitamins A, C, E, and B-complex are also found in cumin seeds in sufficient quantities.
Being so rich in healthy nutrients, cumin seeds are destined by nature to help people withstand numerous diseases, including:
- Digestive disorders.
Cumin seeds promote the digestive process by activating the work of the glands that are responsible for this function. Under the influence of the seeds, they begin to secrete more acids, bile, and enzymes that are necessary for the digestion of food. This spice improves appetite and the gut motility, promoting better absorption of nutrients. A pinch of the seeds drunk with water relieves stomach aches.
Being a rich source of dietary fiber, these seeds prevent constipation, which is, alongside with inflammation, one of the main causes of this unpleasant condition. In a powdered form, they act like a laxative due to the oils found in them. Additionally, these substances have healing qualities and promote better cleaning of the intestine.
- Respiratory disorders.
The aromatic oils found in cumin seeds are potent disinfectants. Their anticongestive effect is supported by caffeine, which stimulates congestion. These properties of the seeds make them very useful for those people who suffer from asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions. In fact, these seeds act like an expectorant, loosening phlegm and mucus and warding them off the organs of respiration.
- The immunity system support.
A great amount of phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, as well as the presence of a variety of minerals, make them a booster for the immunity system. Additionally, vitamins C, A, and E promote the body’s resistance to ailments by being powerful antioxidants as well. All these substances stimulate the production and activity of white blood cells, which are responsible for the functioning of the immune system. Additionally, they scavenge free radicals that are formed during the process of metabolism, defending the body from a range of dangerous diseases, including viral ones such as a cold, flu, and others.
Numerous studies show that antioxidants possess certain anticancer properties. Soluble fiber has detoxifying qualities. This also defends from the harmful impact of chemicals by enhancing the liver’s detoxification enzymes. On the whole, cumin seeds have demonstrated their ability to prevent certain types of cancer, in particular, colon cancer.
The most distinguishing feature of cumin is its abundance in iron: one teaspoon of the seeds supplies about 1.5mg, or 10% of the daily value of this mineral. This makes them an essential food supplement for those who suffer from anemia, which manifests itself in constant fatigue, digestive disorders, anxiety, and other symptoms. Iron deficiency affects the ability of the red blood cells to transport oxygen to the organs of the body.
- Neurological conditions.
These may manifest themselves in the disability to concentrate and cognitive disorders. Cumin seeds, due to their richness in iron, provide a better supply of oxygen to the brain. This enhances its better functioning, thus lowering the risk of neurodegenerative ailments like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The increased supply of oxygen also boosts metabolism, which leads to overall good health.
- Anxiety and insomnia.
A wide range of chemical substances found in this unusual plant provides both a stimulating and relaxing effect. Certain components of cumin oils even possess hypnotic qualities and are, to a great extent, tranquilizing. Additionally, vitamin B complex, as well as magnesium, helps relieve stress and anxiety, which are the main causes of insomnia.
- Skin disorders.
Being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin E is beneficial to the skin. This prevents inflammation as well as microbial and fungal infections.
The Culinary Uses of Cumin Seeds
The seeds are used as a spice in cooking and can be added to a wide range of dishes, including soups, sauces, stews, bread, cheese, and pickling. They can also be used in liquors – soothes and teas. This spice is an inseparable ingredient of curry powders. Here are some useful tips on how to enjoy their culinary benefits to the full:
- Combine cumin seeds, black pepper, and honey to use as a flavoring for vegetables. In Middle Eastern countries, this mixture is appreciated as a strong aphrodisiac.
- Prepare a soothing and warming tea by boiling a pinch of seeds in a cup of water. Let it steep for ten minutes, sieve, and drink to ward off the cold.
- Add the spice to dishes based on legumes, such as garbanzo beans, black beans, and lentils. This will reveal and greatly complement the taste of legumes.
- Cook brown rice and add the seeds, dried apricots, and almonds to enjoy a delicious dessert.
- Season sautéed vegetables with this spice to add a North African flavor to the dish.
How to Buy and Store Cumin Seeds
When buying and then storing this spice, pay attention to the following:
- Buy whole seeds instead of the powder. Powdered seeds can have mixtures of other spices of worse quality added into the package. Besides, the spice can lose its flavor very quickly.
- Check that the seeds are not broken.
- Squeeze the seeds between your fingers to ensure their quality. They should release a pleasant peppery aroma.
- Check the date of manufacture. Whole seeds should be used within one year. Ground ones usually keep for six months.
- Grind whole seeds when needed. Before grinding, roast them until there is a strong aroma, and then cool them down. You can easily grind this spice with a mortar pestle, which will preserve its best qualities.
- Store whole seeds in a cool, dark, and dry place in an air-sealed container. The powdered spice should be kept in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. It shouldn’t be a plastic container, but a glass or wooden one.