Cumin Seeds: History, Nutritional Value, Uses, Risk Factors
Cumin seeds are seeds from a plant of Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family known as Cuminum cyminum. The seeds are enclosed in the fruit which are then extracted after drying and used as a spice in a lot of cuisines. These seeds are known as cumin seeds.
Cumin seeds are considered a great source of many vitamins and nutritional benefits and are also used as medicines in a lot of cultures. Cumin plant is a leafy annual herbaceous plant which is only 30 to 50 cm tall and is native to China, India and Middle East. It belongs to the parsley or carrot family.
Known by many different names in different parts of the world, cumin seeds are known as jeera in Hindi, comino in Spanish, chimion in Romanian, semyan tmina in Russian and kreuzkummel in German. Cumin seeds are used whole as a spice in many traditional Indian, Mexican and North African dishes as well as in its powdered form. Cumin essential oil is also used in cooking to give that specific aroma and in medicines due to its many medicinal properties.
History of Cumin Seeds
The history of cumin seeds dates back to 5000 years. Levant, a region in Eastern Mediterranean is most likely the originating place of cumin seeds. Cumin seeds have been excavated from and ancient Egyptian sites and even from a site in Syria called Tel-ed-Der which have been found to be from 2nd millennium BC.
Even though cumin seeds were introduced in America by Portuguese and Spanish colonists much later, its use is much older. It was kept in a separate container on the dining tables of ancient Greece like salt and pepper are kept nowadays. This practice continues in Morocco even now. In ancient Greece and Rome, cumin seeds were considered a symbol of love and fidelity.
Nutritional Value of Cumin Seeds
Here is a chart to show the nutritional value of cumin seeds.
|Nutritional Facts (For a serving size of 1 tbsp /13.6 g)|
|Energy||1,567 kJ (375 kcal)|
|Dietary Fibers||10.5 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||64 μg|
|Thiamine (Vitamin B1)||
|Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)||
|Niacin (Vitamin B3)||
|Folate (Vitamin B9)||
(According to the National Nutrition Database, United States of America, Department of Agriculture)
Cumin seeds are a good source of Iron and dietary fibers. They also contain various vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, and vitamins B1, B2, B3, and folate. Beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in a rich amount in cumin seeds.
Other nutrients which are found in cumin seeds include manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Cumin seeds also contain phytochemicals which have carminative, anti-flatulent and antioxidant properties.
Cumin aldehyde (4-isopropylbenzaldehyde), 2-ethoxy-3-isopropylpyrazine, pyrazines, 2-methoxy-3-sec-butylpyrazine, and 2-methoxy-3-methylpyrazine are some of the essential oils found in cumin seeds which are beneficial for human health.
Many nutritionists believe that eating one teaspoon of cumin seeds daily can help in fulfilling your nutritional requirements for the day. One teaspoon of cumin seeds also contain approximately 3mg of iron which comprises about 34% daily iron intake of men and 20% of the daily iron intake of women.
These nutrients present in cumin seeds are very important for our health as iron and copper are necessary for Red Blood Cells formation, magnesium is important for the process of energy production from food and is a natural relaxant, calcium is indispensable for strong bones and teeth and also regulates muscle contraction and relaxation. Apart from these nutrients, presence of zinc in cumin seeds helps in boosting our immune system and potassium, found in rich amounts in cumin seeds; helps in controlling blood pressure and heart rate.
Uses of Cumin Seeds
Cumin seeds are used in a variety of ways such as:
Culinary Use of Cumin Seeds
Cumin seeds are used as whole- or in powdered form in Indian recipes especially for making curry and vegetables. They are also used in tacos and fajitas in Mexican cuisine. You can also use cumin seeds on meats and vegetables before roasting them or sprinkle them on breads and different dishes to enhance their flavor.
Cumin seeds are also used to flavor various desserts and beverages especially alcoholic beverages.
Cumin Essential Oil
Extracted from cumin seeds, cumin essential oil is used in lotions, creams and facial masks. It is also used to purify air or to ease nausea.
Medicinal Uses Of Cumin Seeds
Cumin Seeds As An Aphrodisiac
Arabs use cumin seeds as an aphrodisiac by mixing it in honey and ground pepper. It is widely believed in many cultures that cumin seeds have aphrodisiac properties.
Risk Factors of Cumin Seeds
Even though cumin seeds have very little side effects, even when consumed in large amounts; there are some risk factors that everyone should be aware of. Cumin seeds, even though they are non-toxic, should be taken in moderate amounts by men as it is known to decrease the level of testosterone in men which can decrease their fertility. So, it is generally a good idea for men not to take cumin seeds in large doses for a long period of time.
Cumin seeds are also used in some cultures to induce menstruation and to abort an unwanted child. So those women who are trying to conceive a baby or who are already pregnant should keep that in mind before using cumin seeds.
Typically, only 300 to 600 mg of cumin seeds should be consumed daily as herbal supplement. Those people who are already suffering from some medical condition should consult a doctor before using cumin seeds in large quantities.