What is Cumin?
Cumin is an awesome spice that enlivens all kinds of delicious, savory dishes from soups to mains to roasted nuts. “Cumin” refers to both the whole and ground seeds of the Cuminum cyminum plant, a member of the parsley family. It has a warm, earthy flavor and has an aroma with a bit of both sweetness and bitterness. However, in order to reach the ideal flavor, the whole seeds need to be toasted. You can find this spice in a variety of different dishes, as it is very versatile. You’ve no doubt experienced its distinct flavor in Southwestern and Mexican favorites like chilis and moles, and also in Indian delicacies like curry. It’s especially delicious in fresh guacamole and homemade chicken soup.
Cumin is not only an amazing culinary spice, it’s also a medicinal favorite. In the ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda, it’s frequently used to assist the body in removing toxins and to support good digestion. This volume of Food Chemistry points to Cumin’s enhancing effect on digestive enzymes. This article points to cumin as an economically sound way to help control IBS symptoms.
Cumin contains many health benefits. One reason cumin promotes good health is due to its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. It supports a healthy LDL/HDL ratio which is thought to be highly important when controlling blood cholesterol levels. Interestingly, cumin essential oil shows even greater antioxidant activity than the chemical antioxidants BHA and BHT (so often found in packaged, processed cereals and other foods), indicating that cumin could be useful as a supplement in a healthy diet and as a natural food preservative. This article notes that adding cumin to commercial foods would have the two-fold benefit of providing flavor and being a nutraceutical (a food that promotes health and healing) at the same time.
Many in traditional societies have long used spices as natural medicine in treating a number of diseases including diabetes. Cumin is among several wonderful spices that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties that can help prevent and manage diabetes and complications arising from diabetes.
Practitioners of Ayurveda often recommend sautéing or pan-frying cumin in ghee or oil. This is to help promote balance in all three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). We recommend blending cumin with other spices, such as turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, ginger and fennel. However, this depends on a person’s unique constitution.
Read about the health benefits of other spices like cumin here.