Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) commonly known as methi is an annual herb belonging to the family Papilionaceae. Fenugreek seeds are a rich source of protein, minerals, vitamins, gum, fiber, alkaloid, flavonoids, saponin, and volatile compounds. It is one of the most promising medicinal herbs, known from ancient times and shows antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, hypocholesterolemic, hypoglycemic and lactation induced properties. Recent studies have revealed that fenugreek is a valuable herb having medicinal properties and thus, can be used for preparing different products of medical importance.
Some more benefits of Fenugreek:
- Fenugreek seeds contain several health-enhancing bioactive compounds. Fenugreek flour can be combined with whole wheat or cornflour to provide fenugreek-enriched cereal products that deliver additional health benefits.
- Fenugreek-enriched bread, cookies, and tortillas had similar or better acceptability compared with whole wheat bread, regular cookies, or corn tortillas.
- The fenugreek-enriched bread showed decreased insulin resistance and improved insulin sensitivity and may be considered as proof that fenugreek is a good antidiabetic functional food for individuals with type 2 diabetes.
Medical Uses of Fenugreek:
In the traditional Indian medicine system, fenugreek has been used extensively for curing several disorders. India is the major producer of fenugreek and it has been mainly used for culinary and medicinal purposes. Fenugreek is extensively cultivated in most regions of the world for its medicinal value. Fenugreek seeds have been known and valued as medicinal material from very early times. Its seeds are considered as a commercial source of asteroid diosgenin, which is of importance to the pharmaceutical industry. The biological and pharmacological actions of fenugreek are attributed to the variety of its constituents, namely: steroids, N-compounds, polyphenolic substances, volatile constituents, amino acids, etc.
Health benefits of Fenugreek:
Health benefits of fenugreek are attributed to its chemical composition, some minor components such as alkaloids
(trigonelline, choline, gentianine, carpaine, etc), free unnatural amino acids (4- hydroxy isoleucine), and individual spirostanol and furostanol like diosgenin, gitogenin, and yamogenin.
Nutritional aspects of Fenugreek:
Fenugreek seeds are composed of 20% to 30% protein, 45% to 60% carbohydrates (mainly the galactomannan, mucilaginous fibers in the cell walls), and 5% to 10% lipids. Other important components include pyridine-type alkaloids (mostly trigonelline), free amino acids (most notably 4-hydroxy isoleucine), saponins, and glycosides that produce upon hydrolysis steroidal sapogenins, such as diosgenin.
They are especially rich in choline. Seeds are aromatic, bitter, carminative, galactagogue and antibacterial. The leaves constitute 50% unavailable carbohydrates (fiber) thus making it the richest natural source of fiber. The fiber portion consists of insoluble (30%) and soluble (20%) fraction which is mostly galactomannan. Total lipids extracted from fenugreek seeds amounted to be 7.5% of the dry seeds and consisted of 84.1% neutral lipids, 5.4% glycolipids, and 10.5% phospholipids. Fenugreek contains approximately 4 to 8% saponins and about 1% alkaloids, which contributes to its bitterness.