Menopause Menu: FenugreekNov 08, 2022
The ingredient for this month’s Menopause Menu was suggested by one of the fantastic Fitness in Menopause Masterclass students, Amy. Before she told me about this, I had never heard of it but was very excited to dig into the research to see if it could benefit women in menopause and make it onto my Menopause Menu. To my surprise, not only is there promising research highlighting its overall health benefits but also menopause-specific benefits. So here’s the scoop on fenugreek.
What is it?
Fenugreek, the ripe seed of Trigonella foenum graecum Linn (family Fabaceae), is a clover-like herb native to the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, and western Asia. Some describe the taste and smell of the seeds as similar to maple syrup. It is a popular kitchen spice and Ayurvedic medicine generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the USFDA and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Fenugreek is considered one of the oldest medicinal plants, and its health-promoting effects include anti-diabetes, lipid-lowering, anti-inflammation, antioxidation, antitumor, immunoregulation, and hepatoprotection, to name a few. It has also been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, night sweats, and pain in leg muscles and joints, with significant improvement in irritability and vaginal dryness, compared to a placebo. A study from 2006 on postmenopausal women and a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study from 2020 on perimenopausal women showed significant improvements. The women in the study from 2020 reported a more than 20% reduction in hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia and more than 30% improvement in depression after taking 500 mg of fenugreek over 42 days.
Word of caution
Although fenugreek is generally safe, it can interact with medications and have adverse effects. Potential side effects include digestive disorders, liver toxicity, and allergic reactions, and for patients taking antidiabetic drugs, it can cause drastic blood sugar drops. Always consult your doctor before taking any new herb or supplement because many herbs, foods, and supplements can harm your health if combined with other herbs or medication.
How to consume it
Although there are fenugreek supplements you can take, I’m a big fan of including as many things in my cooking. Fenugreek, aka methi, is easily incorporated into recipes and is a staple ingredient in Indian cooking. According to chef Chintan Pandya the seeds are on their own “hard as a rock and very bitter.” He recommends soaking them overnight to soften the texture and the bitter flavor. After soaking them, they can easily be toasted and used like clove or cardamom. But you can also find them ready to use in many grocery stores’ spice aisles.
You can find many recipes that use this ingredient. NYT Cooking has an entire recipe section here. I also found a fabulous vegan recipe on Cookilicious.com for Fenugreek Potato Stir Fry
I would love to hear about your experiences with this ingredient. Any recipes you want to share?
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