Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and the genus Foeniculum. The plant is a perennial herb, glaucous green in color and grows up to a maximum height of 2.5 m tall. Although indigenous to the Mediterranean regions, a number of cultivated varieties are available all round the world like the Florence fennel and the bronze leaved fennel. The major fennel producers around the world are Syria, India, Mexico, Iran, Egypt, Turkey and China. In fact, the plant plays a vital role in the food culture of certain European countries like France and Italy. A high source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibers, the beneficial effects of fennels have been known since ages. To give you a better idea about the diverse health benefits of consuming the vegetable, a list of the medicinal effects of fennel is given below.
Health Benefits Of Eating Fennel
- Fennels are known for their strong anti-oxidant properties due to the presence of a number of unique phytonutrients like quercitin, flavonoids rutin and various kaempferol glycosides.
- Studies have also proposed that a particular phytonutrient, anethole, present in fennels play a major role in reducing inflammation and even help to prevent the occurrence of cancer. This is done by the shutting down of an intercellular signaling system called TNF (tumor necrosis factor) mediated signaling by anethole. Due to this, the activation of a strong gene altering and inflammation triggering molecule (NF-kappa B) is prevented and hence the positive effects.
- Vitamin C, the body’s prime water soluble antioxidant is present in high amounts in fennels. Due to this, the free radicals in the body are neutralized. This is very important as the presence of free radicals in the body causes cellular damage with resultant pain and joint degeneration as seen in conditions like RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) and osteoarthritis.
- In addition to this, vitamin C is also antimicrobial and is required for the proper functioning of the immune system.
- Fennels are also beneficial against high cholesterol levels due to their high fiber content.
- Fibers are also required to remove potentially carcinogenic toxins from the colon. Hence, very useful in the prevention of colon cancer.
- Another vitamin present in fennels, folate plays a major role in the conversion of a dangerous molecule called homocysteine into benign and harmless molecules. Homocysteine, when present in concentrated amounts in the body, damages the walls of blood vessels in the body. This, in turn, may lead to conditions like stroke and heart attack.
- Another nutrient present in fennels that helps to lower blood pressure in the body is potassium. High blood pressure is regarded as another risk factor for stroke and heart attack.
- Fennel seeds are also used in certain countries like India to improve eye-sight and are taken either raw or mixed with a sweetener. Fennel tea is also widely used as an eye-tonic to reduce soreness and eye inflammation and are applied either as eye-drops or as a compress.
- Fennels are sometimes used as a diuretic agent.
- In certain cases, intake of fennels has been associated with the increased risk of epilepsy and seizures.
- If taken in excess amounts, fennels have been known to disrupt the immune system.
- Fennels are also known sometimes to initiate contact dermatitis, photo dermatitis and cross reactions.
- Fennels are cooked using any of their three different portions namely, the leaves, stalk and the base.
- Fennels can be cut in any preferred shape and size as per the recipe to be prepared. However, the best way to slice it is by cutting it vertically through the bulb.
- The stalk portion of fennels can be used for brewing soups, stocks and stews while the leafy portion act as herbal seasoning.
- In case, the bulb of the vegetable is not used for the recipe, then cut it first in half and remove the base. Once, this is done, rinse it properly with water and then cut into any desired shape.