Sometimes mistaken as cumin, the caraway is one of the prominent spices widely used in culinary. The caraway seeds are fruits of a biennial plant, Carum carvi, which is native to Africa, Asia, and Europe. The plant grows about two feet in height. They bear white or pinkish flowers, which when die, allow the caraways seeds to be harvested.
Caraway is distinguished with its dark brown, crescent-shaped appearance, peppery aroma, and anise-like flavor. It is used in many European dishes as it adds flavor to sauces, soups, salads, desserts, and sausages or meat. Caraway seeds go well with vegetables like cabbage and potatoes, and yield an extraordinary dish with other herbs or spices like parsley and thyme. While it is used in many dishes, the health benefits derived from caraway seeds are not known to most people. Very few studies have only been conducted to get to know more about caraway. Hopefully, through this article, you will be able to appreciate and understand the positive changes that caraway may bring to your body.
Top 12 Health Benefits of Caraway
Caraway is an excellent source of dietary fiber
Dietary fiber plays a vital role in overall health. Apart from its key function in weight-related issues, fiber finds greater importance to increase bulk of the food that is ideal to prevent constipation. Fiber helps speed up the movement of food through the gut. The 38 grams of fiber found in every 100g caraway seeds contribute to bind toxins and protect colon from cancers. Also, when fiber binds with bile salts, there is a significant reduction in serum LDL cholesterol level.
Caraway counters the effects of histamine
When you are suffering from severe and relentless coughing, there is a chance that histamine could be working against you. This is especially so if you are dealing with allergies. Worse symptoms include difficulty in breathing. The problem with over-the-counter antihistamine medicines is that they may yield unwanted side effects. If you are in dire need of a more natural antihistamine to relieve cough and allergies, then caraway seeds, especially in the form of oil, may help. They are found to effectively reduce or neutralize the effects of histamine.
Caraway promotes heart health
Caraway is also a key factor in improving heart health. The oil from caraway effectively maintains normal heart rate as it strengthens cardiac muscles, and lowers both blood pressure and cholesterol level. Caraway, therefore, promotes the overall health of the heart thereby reducing heart disease.
Caraway aids digestion
Not only does caraway improves heart health, it likewise boosts the digestive system. It has a combined positive effect on stomach problems like bloating and gas. Caraway is found to be effective in speeding up digestion by targeting the production of gastric juices and bile into the stomach. Caraway also provides relief in constipation and bowel movement. The soothing effect of caraway helps treat stomach ulcers. A 1999 German Journal Drug Research found caraway to be effective in curing indigestion after symptoms of the said condition alleviated thereafter.
Caraway helps with urinary issues
If you feel like your urination is obstructed, then caraway seeds may offer some relief. The oil from these seeds has an urination-stimulating effect, which effectively removes uric acid and cleans up waste in the kidneys. Not only that, caraway oil likewise lowers blood pressure
Caraway reduces blood sugar levels
Another health benefit of caraway is its potential in managing blood sugar levels. A 2006 study conducted on diabetic rats revealed that rats with caraway extracts resulted to a decrease in their cholesterol levels. In 2011, another study published in Saudi Medical Journal showed that there was a substantial drop in the blood sugar levels while showing positive results in weight loss.
Caraway is loaded with antioxidants
There are several plant-based products that contain an excellent amount of antioxidants and one of them is caraway. Caraway consists of volatile compounds such as pinen, carbine, and limo ene among many others, which are found to have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are significant to scavenge harmful free radicals and eventually eliminating them out of the human system. Other flavonoid antioxidants like carotene and lutein work to protect the body from aging, cancer, and infection.
Caraway gives long lasting relief from congestion
Caraway seeds are also considered as an expectorant. Its oil is helpful in providing relief from congestion that arises along with coughs and colds. Caraway has the capacity to loosen the mucus that is stored in the respiratory system. Similarly, it alleviates inflammation of the pharynx, nasal tract, and throat caused by illnesses like colds.
Caraway boosts the immune system
Incorporating caraway seeds in your diet will boost your immune system. Apart from the huge amount of antioxidants, it contains significant content of vitamin C, which is a natural immune system booster. Every 100g serving of caraway yields about 21mg or 35% of the recommended daily value.
Caraway prevents infection
Caraway seeds are generally antiseptic, which is why it has a history of being used to wash wounds or burns to prevent infection. Apart from the usual wounds or burns, caraway may help disinfect or cure infections of the colon and other digestive, urinary, excretory, and respiratory problems. It is found to hamper the growth of bacteria that primarily causes the infection like tetanus.
Caraway cures depression and promotes clarity of mind
Caraway, through its oil, is soothing and stimulating. It combats fatigue and depression. The warm oil from caraway is good for both body and mind. It stimulates the body and organs for optimum functioning of the entire system. It helps clear the mind and relieve any mental stress while ensuring that the brain is active and awake.
Caraway is a powerhouse of minerals
The body needs minerals to ensure normal and proper functioning. Each of them plays a significant role, which contributes to a person’s overall health. Caraway seeds contain large amounts of minerals particularly iron, copper, and phosphorus. Both iron and copper are key players in the production of red blood cells. Phosphorus is a crucial element in the formation of bones and tooth, and it very much involved in the utilization of carbohydrates and fats.
Caraway may be considered as an underrated spice when it comes to health benefits. However, not everybody knows that these seeds are loaded with numerous vitamins and minerals, which our body needs for optimum function. Caraway is a good source of nutrients to complete the recommended daily value for each. Plus, it has zero cholesterol. A 100g serving of caraway seeds contain:
- 333 calories (or 23 calories per 1tbsp)
- Carbohydrates- 49.90g (30% of the recommended daily value)
- Protein- 19.77g (35% RDV)
- Total Fat- 14.59g (48% RDV)
- Dietary Fiber- 38g (100% RDV)
- Vitamin A– 363 IU (12% RDV)
- Vitamin B1 or Thiamin– 0.383g (32% RDV)
- Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin– 0.379 (29% RDV)
- Vitamin B3 or Niacin– 3.606g (23% RDV)
- Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine– 0.360 (28% RDV)
- Vitamin B9 or Folates– 10 µg (2.5% RDV)
- Vitamin C– 21mg (35% RDV)
- Vitamin E– 2.5mg (17% RDV)
- Iron– 16.23mg (203% RDV)
- Copper-0.910mg (101% RDV)
- Phosphorus– 568mg (81% RDV)
- Calcium– 689mg (69% RDV)
- Magnesium– 258mg (64.5% RDV)
- Manganese– 1.300mg (56.5% RDV)
- Zinc– 5.5mg (50% RDV)
- Potassium– 1351mg (29% RDV)
History of Caraway
While caraway may sound foreign and new to some people, it has been in existence for many years already. Caraway may be known today as the seed that adds flavor to rye bread, but it is definitely more than just that. Caraway seeds have been widely used and its origin is even traced back to the Stone Age. Its discovery in prehistoric communities in Europe led to the belief that these seeds have been part in the early days of men.
Its use, however, only flourished with the ancient Arabs who referred to the seeds as Karawya. Caraway has been mentioned by old writers. Greek physician, Dioscorides, advised the use of oil from caraway by pale-faced girls. Julius Caesar also consumed caraway seeds with milk so as to produce chara. It was also mentioned in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part Two as it was used as condiments.
The caraway seeds were brought by the Romans to Britain where it was cultivated later on. It has scattered to the Nile valley and was later on discovered to have been cultivated as garden herb in East Africa.
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Fun Facts about Caraway
- Julius Caesar used to eat caraway with milk to form his chara, which was also eaten by the soldiers of Valerius.
- In the German folklore, some children would hide caraway under their beds to protect them from witches.
- Caraway was also found to have been used in love potions and to prevent fickleness.
Popular Caraway Recipes
Caraway seeds are used in a wide variety of recipes like sausages, bread, salads, and even main dishes. One does not have to go through difficult things in order to benefit from the nutrients that caraway seeds bring. We included two easy recipes that one can quickly make without wasting so much of time and effort. The first is a caraway tree, which helps relax the body and clear the mind. Second is a buttered cabbage with caraway. This easy to make and always on-the-go recipe is a life-changing addition to your kitchen.
- 1tsp caraway seeds, crushed
- 1 cup hot water
- Using either a pepper mill or mortar and pestle, crush the caraway seeds.
- Pour 1tsp crushed caraway seeds in a cup of hot water. Allow the seeds to steep for 10 minutes. Avoid boiling the tea or use boiling water to retain the essential oils from the seeds.
Buttered cabbage with Caraway
- One 2-pound head of cabbage
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- 1/2 tsp celery seeds
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- Heat a large pot with salted water and put it to a boil.
- Peel the cabbage. Cut the head into quarters. Discard the core. Cut the cabbage into large pieces, about one or two inches per piece.
- Add the cabbage in the pot. Cook the leaves for 90 seconds then drain the pot of its water.
- In the same pan, add the butter. Then add the caraway seeds, celery seeds, and black pepper. Toss and serve.
Side Effects of Caraway
Caraway is, indeed, an excellent source of nutrients that allow the body to maximize its capacities. However, consumption of caraway seeds must be in moderation. Too much caraway, like any spices, may lead to gastrointestinal irritation or stomach ulcers. Excessive intake of caraway may also cause belching or burping that may come with odor. Oil extracted from caraway seeds, when taken in large doses, may result in liver damage.
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