By- Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
Fenugreek is an herb long used in alternative medicine. It is a common ingredient in Indian dishes and often taken as a supplement.
What is fenugreek?
Fenugreek is a plant that stands around 2–3 feet (60–90 cm) tall. It has green leaves, small white flowers, and pods that contain small, golden-brown seeds.
For thousands of years, fenugreek has been used in alternative and Chinese medicine to treat skin conditions and many other diseases. Fenugreek seeds and powder are also used in many Indian dishes for their nutritional profile and slightly sweet, nutty taste. (1)
Fenugreek contains many essential nutrients, and these help make it a strong antioxidant. People have been using fenugreek in varying forms for hundreds or potentially thousands of years to treat a very wide range of conditions, such as:
- Digestive problems, including constipation, loss of appetite, and gastritis
- Breast milk production and flow
- Low testosterone or libido
- Painful menstruation
- High blood pressure
- Breathing problems
- Low exercise performance
- Open wounds
- Muscle pain
- Migraines and headaches
- Childbirth pains (2)
Fenugreek and Diabetes
Fenugreek seed also known as Trigonella foenum-graecum. It has been commonly used as herbal preparation for diabetes treatment. Multiple mechanisms are suggested for its efficacy in diabetes population. Soluble fibers in fenugreek including glucomannan fiber delays intestinal absorption of ingested sugars and alkaloids such as fenugrecin and trigonelline have demonstrated to possess hypoglycemic action, and 4 hydroxyisoleucine (4-OH Ile) amino acids act on pancreas to release insulin.(3)
How does it affect diabetes?
Multiple studies have been carried out to investigate the potential anti-diabetic benefits of fenugreek.
Of these, several clinical trials showed that fenugreek seeds can improve most metabolic symptoms associated with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in humans by lowering blood glucose levels and improving glucose tolerance
In one study, researchers in India found that adding 100 grams of defatted fenugreek seed powder to the daily diet of patients with insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetes significantly reduced their fasting blood glucose levels, improved glucose tolerance and also lowered total cholesterol, LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglycerides.
In another controlled trial, incorporating 15 grams of powdered fenugreek seed into a meal eaten by people with type 2 diabetes reduced the rise in post-meal blood glucose, while a separate study found that taking 2.5 grams of fenugreek twice a day for three months lowered blood sugar levels in people with mild, but not severe, type 2 diabetes.(4)
Best ways of consuming fenugreek
- Dry roast fenugreek seeds on medium-high heat for one to two minutes, Stir frequently and add 1 teaspoon over Indian curries, salads and stir-fry dishes.
- Soak 1 teaspoon overnight in water and gulp the next morning with 1 glass water.
- Sprout fenugreek seeds by soaking them in water overnight, keeping them in a jar covered with a cloth for few days until tiny green shoots appear. The sprouted fenugreek seeds can be added to any kind of salads.
- Fresh fenugreek leaves can be added to roti’s, paratha’s, dosa’s and idli’s.
- Herbal teas made with fenugreek seeds, lemon and honey is an effective remedy used to treat fevers.(5)