What is Cumin?
A member of the parsley family, commonly used in Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. Some countries refer to cumin as the foreign form of caraway. It’s mostly grown in the Middle East and China.
Both whole seeds and ground powder are widely used. Cumin has an earthy, lemony flavor with just a touch of heat. If you’ve ever eaten tacos, you’ve certainly experienced it. But it’s often part of marinades, barbecue sauce, curry, chili and baked beans.
This spice also complements: lentils, beans, sausage, lamb, pork, fish, rice, and potatoes. It pairs well with turmeric, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon and garlic. Like all herbs, it loses flavor over time on the shelf. Any spice in the cupboard longer than a year may be less flavorful.
In biblical times, Romans and Greeks used cumin medicinally. Traditional Indian or Ayurvedic medicine used cumin to help with digestion, diarrhea, and jaundice. People even smoked it in a pipe with ghee to relieve hiccups!
Studies show that cumin has been associated with lowering blood glucose, reducing inflammation, and as an anti-bacterial.
One version of cumin with recent notoriety is black cumin, or nigella sativa. It has been used over the centuries for a variety of ailments. Modern research shows it protects against breast cancer in animal studies, and reduces inflammation attributed to arthritis. Cumin added to the diet of rats also slowed down the formation of colon cancer cells. It’s been found effective at killing the H. Pylori bacteria associated with stomach ulcers. It was also shown to significantly reduce cholesterol and triglycerides in diabetic rats. (Likely related to its positive impact on blood sugar).
The bottom line is that, like many herbs, cumin has broad health benefits. However, dosages should be regular and generous to make an impact. Add it to your rice or rice substitute, meats, veggies and more. Try “blooming” cumin in coconut oil (melt coconut oil and toss in herbs for a moment until fragrant) and roast veggies in the mixture. Cumin and cayenne are excellent over beets and sweet potatoes roasted at 425° for 30 minutes. Top with lemon juice and fresh parsley for an extra kick. Serve the leftovers atop a bed of greens for lunch the next day with pine nuts or pumpkin seeds.
- 101 Foods that Could Save Your Life by David Grotto, RD