Nigella seeds, also known as black seeds or kalonji, are tiny black seeds derived from the Nigella sativa plant. These seeds have a rich historical and cultural significance, dating back thousands of years and being used in traditional medicine and culinary practices across various cultures.
These seeds look like black sesame but have a completely different flavour and shape, which can only be identified when you observe them closely.
Throughout history, Nigella seeds have been valued for their potential health benefits and were mentioned in ancient texts for their medicinal properties.
In modern times, there has been a resurgence of interest in Nigella seeds, driven by their growing popularity in the culinary world and increasing recognition of their potential health-promoting properties.
From their potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to their role in supporting digestive health and immune function, Nigella seeds have garnered attention for their wide-ranging benefits.
This article focuses on exploring the surprising health benefits of Nigella seeds, delving into their nutritional composition and the scientific evidence supporting their potential positive effects on various aspects of health.
By delving into the scientific research surrounding Nigella seeds, this article aims to provide an informative overview of their potential health benefits and shed light on the reasons behind their increasing popularity.
Organoleptic Characteristics of Nigella Seeds
These seeds are mainly used as a pickling ingredient due to their extraordinary flavour, which tastes similar to onion and oregano spice. These black seeds are also used to impart a unique and subtle aroma to many Indian dishes and are often used in combination with other whole spices for tempering curries and dals.
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Nutritional Value of Nigella Seeds
However, these seeds have more to offer. Many studies have shown that Nigella seeds have excellent health benefits and are packed with a lot of nutrients.
|Nutrients||Amount per 100g||% Daily Value*|
|Thiamin (Vitamin B1)||0.4mg||27%|
|Niacin (Vitamin B3)||5.3mg||27%|
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (2019).
It contains a good amount of potassium, magnesium, and manganese. It also contains phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Let us read more about all the amazing health benefits of these nutritious seeds.
Health Benefits of Nigella Seeds
1. Prevent And Control Diabetes
Kalonji and its oil are both very useful for diabetes patients. In some studies, it has been shown that a daily intake of 2 g of nigella helps lower blood glucose levels in diabetes patients.
The reduction is mainly observed in fasting blood glucose levels. Nigella seeds also appear to help glucose homeostasis and lower the amount of glycosylated haemoglobin (Hba1C).
Diabetics often deal with excess glycosylated haemoglobin, which can significantly increase the risk of heart disorders like blood clots and stroke.
Therefore, nigella seeds are not only helpful for diabetes itself but are also protective against the major complications of diabetes.
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2. Help In Weight Loss
Nigella supplements have been shown to help with weight loss and reduce waist circumference.
Though further studies are required to get better insights, the current results point to the enormous potential of the humble seed in managing body weight.
Kalonji seeds have a phytochemical called phytosterol, which reduces appetite and aids in calorie restriction. Therefore, you may include more nigella seeds in your food to make it more filling or have a spoonful daily to achieve your weight loss goals.
3. Maintain Normal Blood Pressure
Nigella seeds are therapeutic for patients with mild hypertension and help regulate blood pressure.
The findings also revealed that regular intake of nigella seeds reduced both diastolic and systolic blood pressure.
This quality comes from thymol and thymoquinone that are present in Nigella seeds and their oil, both of which demonstrate blood pressure-lowering activity. These compounds reduce the activity of an enzyme called ACE and, in turn, lower the oxidative stress on the heart, lowering blood pressure. The nigella seeds also show diuretic effects, which lead to well-regulated blood pressure.
4. Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is the response of the immune system of our body, which helps to protect us against invading organisms like bacteria, viruses, etc.
But excessive, unwanted inflammation can damage the body and is often found in chronic conditions like autoimmune diseases, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer.
The compound thymoquinone present in the nigella seeds helps to stop the effects of cytokines, which are inflammation-causing compounds and therefore reduce unwanted inflammation.
Nigella seeds have high antioxidant properties, which means they reduce the damage from free radicals and are therefore a great anti-inflammatory food. Nigella seed oil may be used for pain relief in osteoarthritis patients and may also be helpful to reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain.
5. Promote Liver And Kidney Health
As mentioned already, nigella seeds are known to be powerful antioxidants, which is why they also have liver-protective properties.
Oxidative stress is a major cause of liver damage over time, and nigella seeds help reduce it.
The antioxidative compounds present in the nigella seeds reduce oxidative stress, which is one of the causes of liver damage. It works in favour of health by killing free radicals and preventing DNA damage.
Thymoquinone, an active antioxidant in Nigella seeds, also protects the liver from parasitic attacks, and regular consumption of Nigella seeds can help reduce different parasitic infections. Nigella seed extract is also good for the kidneys. They help prevent kidney damage and the formation of kidney stones by preventing the formation of deposits of calcium oxalate.
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6. Improve Skin Health
Nigella seed oil and Nigella extract have some amazing effects on regular application over the skin.
Many studies have shown that the application of nigella seeds leads to improved skin texture and may also help treat common problems like acne.
Nigella seeds also aid in treating fungal skin infections like candida due to the presence of thymoquinone, which also exhibits anti-fungal properties.
So, you may consider using nigella seed oil to keep the skin woes at bay!
7. Boost Immunity
Nigella seeds can help boost immunity, reduce asthma, and enhance lung health.
Since the seeds contain very powerful antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, they are very helpful in protecting our bodies from microbial attacks and infections.
Nigella seeds have also shown excellent protective activity against bacterial strains like Staphylococcus. Hence, their consumption helps us stay safe from allergens in our surroundings.
8. Improve Memory
Kalonji seeds may also be helpful to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, a disease that causes loss of memory in elderly people.
Along with science, ayurveda also supports the beneficial effects of Kalonji consumption on promoting mental health. As per Ayurveda, the intake of kalonji leaves combined with mint leaves is a powerful antidote to poor memory and cognitive abilities.
9. Prevent Cancer
Nigella seed oil has reduced the size of tumours in many types of cancer patients, including lung cancer and colorectal cancer. This may be due to the presence of an antioxidant, thymoquinone, in nigella seed oils. It suppresses inflammation and increases immunity in cancer patients.
Regular consumption of nigella seeds also helped in the prevention of many other deadly cancers like liver, skin, prostate, breast, and cervical cancer.
10. Lower Cholesterol
Kalonji seeds exhibit excellent cholesterol-lowering properties.
Regular consumption of these seeds reduces plasma lipid concentrations and lowers triglyceride levels.
For optimum results, one should consume the seeds in large quantities and for a longer duration.
Culinary Uses and Incorporation into Daily Diet
Nigella seeds have been used for centuries as a versatile spice in various cuisines around the world. Their unique flavour adds depth and complexity to dishes. Here are some common culinary uses and suggestions for incorporating these seeds into your diet:
- Nigella seeds, also known as kalonji, are a popular spice in Indian cooking. They are often used in curries, lentil dishes, pickles, and breads such as naan or paratha.
- They are a key ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine. They are commonly sprinkled on bread, added to salads, incorporated into spice blends like za’atar, and used in savoury pastries like manakish.
- Also, they are used as a seasoning for vegetables. These can be sprinkled on roasted or steamed vegetables to add a nutty and slightly bitter flavour.
- Nigella seeds can be used as a topping for bread, rolls, or crackers to add texture and flavour. They can also be incorporated into savoury baked goods like scones or muffins.
- You can sprinkle them on top of yoghurt, hummus, or other dips to enhance the taste and visual appeal.
Precautions and Considerations:
- Nigella seeds are generally safe for most people when consumed in moderate amounts as a spice. However, individuals with specific allergies or sensitivities should exercise caution.
- It’s important to source these seeds from reputable suppliers to ensure their quality and purity.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult with their healthcare provider before incorporating these seeds into their diet.
Remember, culinary uses of Nigella seeds may vary depending on personal preferences and regional cuisines. Experiment with different recipes and cooking styles to find what works best for you.
In conclusion, Nigella seeds offer a range of health benefits, including potential antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. Their nutritional profile, rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, makes them a valuable addition to a healthy diet. While further research is needed to fully understand their potential health effects, incorporating these seeds into your culinary repertoire can add depth and flavour to your meals. So, why not explore the culinary world of Nigella seeds and discover the unique benefits they have to offer?
Remember to consult with your healthcare provider or nutritionist before significantly changing your diet or incorporating new ingredients.
Keep exploring, experimenting, and enjoying the diverse flavours and health benefits nature has to offer!
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