Nutrition: ABC Plant Food Biodiversity Series by: Kristi Pink, MPH, RD, LN

Including a variety of foods in our diets is important in several ways.  It helps to give us a variety of nutrients that our body needs each day.  It helps to diversify our good gut bacteria. It helps to ensure that a variety of plants continue to remain available for us to choose from.  Lastly, it brings fun exploration with new recipes and broadens our taste palate.  Over the next 26 weeks, I will be highlighting a different plant based food, including a recipe and the main health benefits associated with the food.  I am systematically working through the alphabet to broaden both you and I out of our routine comfort zone foods.

Week 6 of my plant food based ABC Biodiversity Series featuring letter “F” this week. (To check out the rest of the blog series click here)

Fennel Blog picFennel is an aromatic and flavorful herb that has several culinary as well as medicinal uses. If it is not in your kitchen cupboard right now, you’ll want to put it on your grocery list and make it a household staple after learning more about it. Check out this super simple recipe highlighting fennel and continue reading to check out all the great things this “F” food has to offer.

Fennel contains vitamin C, potassium, manganese, iron, folate, and fiber. It is also rich in phytonutrients and has a high concentration of volatile oils.

You can enjoy the health benefits of this licorice-tasting herb by sprinkling it on breads or cakes before baking, adding it in fruit salads, adding fresh fennel roots in sautéed vegetables, or simply chewing fennel seeds after meals.

Here are the top 10 health benefits of fennel.

1. Beats Bad Breath
Munching on a few fennel seeds will freshen your breath after a meal due to its antimicrobial properties that fight the germs that cause bad breath. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties also soothe sore gums. In addition to chewing on a fennel seeds, you can swish lukewarm fennel tea in your mouth and gargle with it to reduce bad breath.

2. Aids Digestion
Fennel is highly beneficial in relieving digestive problems such as indigestion, bloating, flatulence, constipation, colic, intestinal gas, heartburn, and even irritable bowel.
This herb stimulates digestion and has carminative effects that soothe the digestive tract and prevent the formation of gas. Moreover, it can help rebuild the digestive system after radiation or chemotherapy treatments.
Simply chewing a teaspoon of fennel seeds after meals aids digestion and relieves stomach pains and bloating. When suffering from indigestion, you can drink fennel tea or take one-half teaspoon of fennel seed powder along with water two times a day.

3. Relieves Water Retention
Drinking fennel tea on a regular basis helps flush out excess fluids from the body as it works as a diuretic. You can also reduce puffy eyes caused by fluid retention by applying strong fennel tea under your eyes.
In addition to preventing and relieving water retention, fennel helps remove toxins and reduces the risk of urinary tract problems. It also has diaphoretic properties that will stimulate perspiration.

4. Reduces Obesity
Fennel is excellent for combating obesity as it suppresses the appetite and creates a feeling of fullness. Fresh fennel works as a natural fat buster by boosting the metabolism and breaking down fats. Plus, being a diuretic, fennel helps reduce water retention, which is a common cause of temporary weight gain.

5. Protects Against Cancers
Fennel bulb can help decrease the risk of developing colon cancer because it helps remove carcinogenic toxins from the colon.

6. Relieves Menstrual Problems
Many factors, including stress and poor diet, can interrupt a woman’s regular menstrual cycle. Fennel seeds have properties that promote and regulate menstrual flow. The herb also has phytoestrogens that help with issues like premenstrual syndrome, menopausal disorders, and breast enlargement.
Apart from menstrual benefits, fennel is traditionally used to promote lactation in nursing mothers. It also works as an aphrodisiac to increase libido in both men and women.

7. Treats Respiratory Illnesses
Fennel has mild expectorant properties that help relieve respiratory tract infections associated with coughs, colds, the flu, and sinus congestion.
For instance, when suffering with a cough and sore throat, you can drink warm fennel tea two or three times a day. Also, you can boil two tablespoons of fennel seeds in one cup of water until half the water evaporates, strain the solution and gargle with it.

8. Prevents Cardiac Problems
Fennel can reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. It is a good source of potassium that helps lower high blood pressure as well as folate that is needed for converting potentially dangerous homocysteine molecules into a benign form.
Also, raw fennel root is rich in dietary fiber that helps control cholesterol buildup. It also contains vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant and prevents heart disease by inhibiting free radical activity.

9. Promotes Eye Health
Researchers have found that fennel may help reduce eye pressure and promote the dilation of blood vessels. Thus, it may help prevent or treat glaucoma, a vision-impairing disease. However, further research and evaluation is needed in this regard.

10. Improves Memory and Brain Function
Fennel works as a general brain booster. Researchers have found that fennel seeds help improve cognitive performance. Fennel bulbs and seeds also have high levels of potassium, which encourages increased electrical conduction throughout the body, contributing to healthy brain functioning and cognitive abilities.
Moreover, fennel juice acts as a vasodilator and increases oxygen supply to the brain. It is also helpful in relieving depression and delaying the onset of dementia.

Kristi Pink, MPH, RD, LN, Integrative Nutrition Coach and Registered Dietitian sees clients at PrairieCare Chaska, and her private practice Pink Wellness, LLC