Yes, Fennel is Paleo!
Tastes like Licorice
Highly prized for its licorice-like flavor (not the licorice taste of jellybeans, if you know what I mean…), fennel is a bulbous vegetable that belongs to the same family as parsley and carrot, the Umbelliferae family. This family includes most herbs and spices such as dill, anise, cumin and caraway.
Fennel has originated in the Mediterranean and is a staple in Greek and Italian cooking but is now starting to make its name widely known worldwide. It has a pale bulb made of overlapping layers of vegetable like cabbage with long green stalks. The top of fennel looks very similar with that of dill and its taste is firm, crunchy, sweet and licorice and anise-like. The strong anise flavor of fennel comes from an aromatic compound known as anethole, which are also found in anise.
Most parts of the fennel are edible including the bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds and can add a wonderful blend of flavor to other food. Fennel is often used in salads, slaws, soups and other main dishes.
Uses of Fennel
Long before it was introduced as ingredient to different cuisines, fennel has served many purposes.
- Since ancient times, fennel was used as natural remedy for health problems including heart burn, bloating, congestion, respiratory tract infection, cough, bronchitis, cholera, back pains and conjunctivitis.
- In women, fennel was used to increase flow of breast milk, promotes menstruation and easing birth process.
- Powdered fennel was used to treat snake and insect bites.
- The oil of fennel was used as a flavoring in some food and beverages.
- In manufacturing processes, fennel oil is used as an agent for laxatives, soaps and cosmetics.
Nutritional Value of Fennel
Most plant-based foods are packed with vitamins, minerals and other amazing healthy compounds and fresh fennel is one of them. One of the most abundant nutrients in fennel is vitamin C. Fennel is also rich in B vitamins, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and folate. It is also a good source of calcium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, iron and niacin. Fennel also contains significant amounts of dietary fiber and beta carotenes lutein and zeaxanthin. Flavanoids like rutin and quercetin are also present in fennel.
Health Benefits of Fennel
Besides the power pack of nutrients that fennel contains it also provides a myriad of health benefits.
- Fennel is a powerhouse of antioxidants including rutin and quercetin and various compounds such as anethole and kaempferol glycosides which are thought to reduce inflammation and boost immune system function. When combined with fiber, can help reduce or eliminate carcinogenic toxins in the colon.
- Vitamin C as the most abundant nutrient in fennel, can fight against infection, boost immune system health and prevent other diseases by neutralizing the effects of free radicals in the body.
- The considerable amounts of fiber found in fennel can help in reducing cholesterol levels. Folate is a B vitamin that is also present in fennel. It is necessary in lowering the levels of homocysteine, when in excess causes damage in the blood vessels and therefore result in heart attack or stroke. Fennel also contains potassium which is essential in regulating blood pressure.
- The powdered form of fennel seeds can act as a laxative and help clear bowels to promote proper excretion. Eating fennel can help in preventing constipation and diarrhea.
- The presence of cineole and anethole can be useful in treating respiratory disorders such as congestion, cough and bronchitis as both are expectorant in nature.
- Fennel is also rich beta carotenes lutein and zeaxanthin which are responsible for good eye health by reducing the risk of premature aging and macular degeneration.
- Iron, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and potassium are responsible in building and maintaining bone structure and strength. All these minerals are active in fennel. Low vitamin K intake has been associated in higher risk of bone fracture.
Caution on Fennel
Moderate consumption of fennel doesn’t really pose any threat in the human body. But be careful of eating fennel seeds in excessive amounts because it can be neurotoxic and could possibly cause hallucinations and seizures.
Other Names for Fennel
What Experts Say About Fennel
“Revered for its unique licorice-like flavoring, fennel contains a unique blend of phytonutrients – including the flavonoids rutin, quercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides – that make it a powerful antioxidant.” – Mark Sisson
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photo credit: Fennel!