Naturopathic Kitchen: Fenugreek

A wooden spoon with fenugreek seeds and leaves.

What is Fenugreek?

Fenugreek is an herb commonly used in Indian cooking, in China and the Middle East. The leaves and seeds of the plant are both used to give various dishes flavor, and are also packed with nutrients. Fenugreek has a nutty, slightly bitter flavor, with maple tones. The leaves are very bitter if eaten raw and are usually cooked to yield the best taste.

Fenugreek has been used as medicine for thousands of years, and for good reason. 1 This herb is nutrient rich and supports various aspects of health.

Health Benefits of Fenugreek

Helps Milk Production

Many women would prefer to breastfeed, but struggle to produce enough breast milk, and increased fenugreek consumption may help. 2 In one study, women who began drinking fenugreek tea had an increase in breast milk production from 1.15 ounces to 2.47 ounces. 3 The women in this study took fenugreek in the form of herbal tea, but taking supplements is likely to have the same effect. 4 5 

Improves Insulin Function

Fenugreek may help manage diabetes and blood sugar levels. This is because fenugreek helps to improve insulin function, and its high fiber content also aids in regulating blood sugar. 6 7 In addition to reducing blood sugar levels in those with diabetes, consuming fenugreek also increases carbohydrate tolerance in those who are not diabetic. 8 9 

Aids in Appetite Management

The addition of fenugreek may help some manage weight loss and appetite. 10 One study found that consuming fenugreek seed extract resulted in a 17% reduction in fat intake after just 14 days. 11 Further research needs to be conducted for a more robust understanding of the mechanisms of action, however initial studies indicate that fenugreek is a safe and effective way to decrease your appetite. 12 

How to Use Fenugreek

Here are some simple ways to increase your fenugreek intake.

Soak and toast fenugreek seeds. Fenugreek seeds are extremely hard and have a very bitter taste if they are not properly prepared. Before using them, soak fenugreek seeds in water overnight. Then toast them briefly in the oven or in a pan on the stove. Now you are ready to add them to recipes.

Add whole or crushed fenugreek seeds to curries, sauces, and soups to give them a nutty, maple flavor.

Use Fenugreek leaves like you would any other leafy green. You can steam or stir fry fenugreek leaves as a side dish, just as you would kale, chard, or other bitter leafy greens.

Fenugreek leaves freeze well, so pop them in your freezer to keep on hand for adding to stir-fries, curries, stews, and more.

Dry and crush fenugreek leaves to add to sauces, marinades, and salad dressings.

Take supplements. If you want the health benefits of fenugreek but do not enjoy the taste, fenugreek supplements are available. Take them before or with a meal.

 

If you are interested in pursuing a career in the healing capacity of food and other natural health practices, naturopathic medicine may be a good fit for you.

 

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