2017 is the year of healthy living for many and spices are a natural way to add valuable nutrients and vitamins to your diet. We often hear about the merits of turmeric and cinnamon, but did you know fennel seeds are also rich with health benefits?
This Italian workhorse tackles everything from regulating blood pressure and cancer prevention to weight loss and appetite suppression.
Fennel is one versatile plant. Classified as both a spice and herb, all parts from leaf to bulb are edible. It is high in fibre, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin A, B-complex, C and E.
Fennel’s anise flavour often shines in sausages, teas, breads, sauerkraut and pickles, but its uses are endless. Pick some up and experiment by adding this refreshing spice to your favourite dishes.
The many benefits of fennel seeds
If you’re looking to naturally regulate blood pressure, fennel seeds are a potent way to do so. Chewing the seeds stimulates nitrate production in saliva which contains plenty of heart healthy potassium. As an added bonus it’s a natural breath freshener – toasted seeds are often chewed following meals in India.
Being rich in anti-oxidants, fennel removes free radicals from the system aiding to protect against cancer, stall effects of aging, lowers cholesterol and prevents neurological issues.
The most common use is to relieve bloating, constipation, IBS, indigestion, flatulence and water retention with its anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties generally done by consuming as a tea.
Fennel tea is a great remedy for asthma, bronchitis and congestion associated with cold and allergies due to their phytonutrients.
Mommies take note: include fennel seeds in your diet to stimulate milk production. It’s also great for baby, fennel water is used to treat colicky newborns and assist digestion.
Fennel around the world
Hugely popular in its native Italy, fennel spread across the Mediterranean courtesy of the Roman Empire.
The world’s largest producer is India where they include fennel seeds in many of their traditional dishes, but you will also find an abundance of it throughout Middle Eastern cuisine.
Its popularity in France ranges from salads to pastries and is a principle ingredient in their infamous green liqueur, Absinthe. Fennel seeds are combined with cinnamon, cloves, star anise and Szechuan pepper to create China’s much beloved five spice blend.
Simple ways to incorporate fennel seeds in your diet
This delicious and healthy spice has the potential to liven up any of your favourite meals. It compliments fish, pork, vegetables, eggs, casseroles, beverages and baked goods with its invigorating flavour.
Here are a few ways to start including it in your kitchen:
- Mix 1 tsp fennel seeds with 2 tbsp torn mint leaves and steep with boiled water for a tummy soothing tea
- Combine fennel seeds with a little salt, olive oil, lemon and toss with roasted beets
- Crush coriander and fennel seeds together as an easy spice for roasted fish
- Ground fennel mixed with massage oil can be used topically to ease joint pain
- Add 1 tbsp fennel seeds to 2 cups cold water and steep over night for a weight loss tonic
- Fennel oil in the diffuser is an uplifting and energizing scent – try using it in conjunction with bergamot, lemon balm, lavender or rosemary to lift spirits
EASIEST EVER FENNEL TOMATO SAUCE
Pair this sauce with pasta, pizza, steamed mussels or simply soak up with baguette.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
- 1 tsp crushed chili flakes
- kosher salt and fresh black pepper
- 796ml can crushed tomatoes (or Italian boxed)
- 6 basil leaves
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar (optional)
Place a large saucepan on medium heat and add oil. Toss in garlic, fennel seeds, chili flakes, a big pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper. Sauté 30 seconds to a minute until fragrant. Add tomatoes and fill can half full with water, swirling to rinse out tomato and add to the pot with vinegar and sugar. Tear basil in smaller pieces and stir into sauce. Cover and gently simmer 30 minutes, add more water if needed. Taste for seasoning and serve.
Article and photos by Dana Rogers