Cumin is a spice that originated in the Upper Nile region of Africa and has been cultivated in North Africa, Arabia, southern Europe, India and China for thousands of years. It’s an annual herb that grows to one foot high and has dark green leaves divided into slender, three inch long segments. The flowers are tiny and white or reddish. The fruit has seven ribs and is called cumin seed. Some people dislike the smell of cumin seed, as it reminds them of bedbugs. Still, cumin adds a rich, smoky, peppery kick to soups and stews. Moreover, cumin has amazing benefits for health.
Among the benefits of taking cumin is its ability to help the body better absorb iron. Cumin tea is often given to women who are anemic and one teaspoon of cumin has 15.5 percent of the recommended daily allowance of iron. The spice is also rich in manganese, calcium and magnesium. Cumin, which is a chief ingredient in Indian curry, also shows promise as an anticarcinogen, which means it may offer protection against cancer, specifically cancers of the stomach and the liver. It also benefits people who have asthma, kidney disorders and arthritis. Cumin might also have antioxidant properties. This means that it protects the body against the ravages of free radical molecules, which damage cells and even DNA in their quest to steal electrons from other molecules.
Researchers are more and more looking into cumin as a weight loss herb. This is because cumin increases the body’s metabolism and rises the temperature, which helps burn fat, especially the fat around the abdomen. Abdominal fat is important because it’s metabolically more active than other types of fat, and the body stores and uses it more readily. Abdominal fat is also in an area that’s served by a major vein that takes the metabolites of the fat to the liver. This tells the liver, falsely, that the fat is being used because the person is starving. This makes the liver produce more glucose than is necessary, which makes the pancreas produce more insulin than necessary. This, over the long run, can lead to Type 2 diabetes.
Cumin can also help the body rid itself of toxins and seems to support the enzymes in the liver that help remove toxins from the body. This not only protects against diseases but helps with weight loss.
The best way to purchase cumin is to buy the whole seeds, since the powdered cumin, like many powdered spices, loses its potency fairly quickly. Cumin is easily found in supermarkets but the shopper might want to buy it from ethnic shops or stores that specialize in herbs and spices, since their product may be superior. The best type of cumin is organically grown.
Once bought, the cumin seeds should be kept in a dark, cool, dry place in a glass container with a tight fitting lid. The whole seeds should last for about a year and the ground cumin should stay fresh for six months or so.