Most Indians have close encounters of the culinary kind with Fenugreek or methi seeds very early in life. These seeds are remarkably bitter and have a marvellous aroma when roasted or fried in a little oil.
How did we start using these seeds, bitter as they are?
Fenugreek down history lane
Apparently, in the 1st century AD, the Romans flavoured wine with fenugreek. The use of fenugreek /methi in India is probably older than history itself; the leaves and the seeds of the herb are well entrenched in Indian cuisines from all parts of the country.
In West Bengal, for instance, methi seeds are used as ‘paanch phoron,’ one of five spices that are used to temper dishes. In fact, the aroma of these little mustard-coloured cuboids makes them a popular choice for the tempering of dals and chutneys. Methi seeds are also used whole or powdered in sambar powder in South India, and pickles in all parts of India.
Modern miracle seed
Fenugreek seeds were always around in Indian kitchens and traditional medicine cabinets. But in recent times, there has been a steady stream of information about the health benefits of fenugreek seeds as many people have ‘adopted’ this seed and reaped health benefits.
The most popular way of consuming fenugreek seeds is to boil them in water. This softens the seeds and releases their nutrients. It also reduces their extreme bitterness so that they are easier to chew and swallow. This requires a little getting used, of course, but the benefits far outstrip the initial distaste.
Fenugreek in water
Soaking fenugreek in water is recommended because it has water soluble minerals and fibre.
There are two ways to make methi/fenugreek water:
Soak 2 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds in 2 glasses, about 400ml, of water overnight.
Put 2 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds in a flask at bedtime. Add 2 glasses of boiling water into the flask. Screw on the lid. Let the seeds soak the whole night. Drink the water first thing in the morning. Chew up the seeds and swallow.
The second method is convenient and healthier. Of course, the seeds are bitter, but you will get used to it. After all, coffee and tea are bitter too; yet we drink them with devotion!
Health benefits of drinking ‘fenugreek water’:
Very beneficial to people with diabetes: Fenugreek encourages the slower absorption of sugars and also stimulates insulin. Diabetics and people on the borderline of diabetes will reap many benefits in drinking warm fenugreek water. Fenugreek seeds can also be powdered and added to dishes like idlis and dosas.
Aids digestion: Fenugreek seeds have mucilage, and the soaking process makes them mucilaginous. They coat and soothe the stomach and intestines. This property also makes fenugreek seeds a good choice for helping patients with acid reflux.
The water soluble fibre in fenugreek helps to relieve constipation.
Because of their anti-inflammatory properties, fenugreek seeds and water have been successfully incorporated into diets to treat ulcerative colitis.
Advantageous to kidney health: Fenugreek water, especially when drunk warm, flushes out the toxins from the body. That is why it is recommended as your wake-up elixir. It helps the kidneys to function and also reduces the risk of kidney stones.
Good for clear skin: Beautiful skin is never just skin-deep! Since fenugreek water aids in digestion and the flushing of toxins, it’s great for shiny, healthful, blemish-free skin. This is the beauty secret of the savvy few. Try it and join the club.
Slimming with this ‘magic water’: Experts recommend two glasses of warm fenugreek water to prevent water retention in the body. So, no bloating! Fenugreek also suppresses the appetite. In fact, dieticians recommend drinking this magic potion at least twice a day.
Anti-inflammatory: Because of the anti-inflammatory properties of fenugreek, this decoction benefits sufferer from arthritis, chronic coughs, bronchitis, mouth ulcers, boils, etc.
Keeps your heart beating: This is the reason why chewing and swallowing the fenugreek seeds is recommended in addition to drinking the water. Fenugreek reduces the risk of cardio-vascular disease by controlling LDL cholesterol.
Fenugreek seeds are a woman’s good friend: Fenugreek contains diosgenin which helps decrease menstrual cramps and increase the flow of milk in lactating mothers.