Fenugreek is one of the key ingredients in many recipes whose seeds are used especially in curries.
However, it has a number of health benefits and is used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
Some studies support it as an effective way of treating some conditions like diabetes, though these are mainly focused on its ability to lower blood sugar.
For example, a 2009 study found that taking a daily dose of 10g of fenugreek seeds in hot water could control type 2 diabetes, while another study suggests that consuming baked goods made with fenugreek flour could lower resistance to insulin in type 2 diabetics.
However, the National Institutes of Health notes that there’s no strong evidence to suggest fenugreek’s ability to reduce blood sugar, but there’s research that shows a modest decrease in fasting glucose if taking fenugreek as a supplement.
What Is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is a plant grown widely in parts of the world including North Africa, South Asia, and some areas of the Mediterranean.
It’s a herb similar to the clover, which is native to these regions, whose seeds may be helpful for diabetics as they contain fiber and chemicals that could slow the body’s absorption of sugar and carbohydrates while slowing down digestion. They may also improve how the body utilizes sugar, increasing the insulin amounts released.
Its leaves are edible, though you can buy it as a spice in powdered or whole form, a supplement in liquid or concentrated pill form, as a tea, or skin cream. However, you should consult your physician if you intend to take it as a supplement.
Fenugreek produces long pods containing seeds, which have a distinctively bitter taste. Its leaves are small and round and can be sold as a vegetable, usually known as methi, or a herb in the form of dried leaves.
Common Uses of Fenugreek
The seeds are useful for making medicine or cooking, or for hiding the taste of other medicine, and can be taken by mouth for digestive problems, diabetes, menopause, obesity, and arthritis among other problems.
It’s also used for heart health conditions, like atherosclerosis, and high blood levels of triglycerides and cholesterol among other specific fats.
Fenugreek is used for kidney ailments too, infection of tissues underneath the skin’s surface, tuberculosis, chapped lips, chronic coughs, beriberi, boils, bronchitis, mouth ulcers, and other conditions.
Some men use it for male problems like infertility, erectile dysfunction, and for hernias. For lactating women, they use it sometimes to promote milk flow.
It can also be used to treat local pain or swelling on the skin, pain and swelling of lymph nodes, muscle pain, leg ulcers, gout, eczema, and wounds.
How Fenugreek Affects Diabetes
Fenugreek appears to reduce sugar absorption in the stomach while stimulating insulin, both of which reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics. Its seeds are high in soluble fiber, which assists with the reduction of blood sugar as it reduces carbohydrate absorption, suggesting its effectiveness in treating diabetics.
Several studies have been done to check the possible benefits of fenugreek in managing diabetes. For instance, a clinical trial revealed that fenugreek seeds can improve type 1 and type 2 metabolic symptoms by reducing blood glucose and improving glucose tolerance.
One particular study done by researchers in India discovered if 100g of defatted fenugreek seed powder is added to a type 1 diabetics’ daily diet, it significantly reduced their fasting blood glucose levels, lowered total cholesterol/triglycerides and LDL, plus improved glucose tolerance.
A separate study found that taking fenugreek (2.5g) for three months, twice a day, reduced blood sugar in type 2 (mild) diabetics, while another study found that incorporating 15g of powdered fenugreek seed into meals of type 2 diabetics lowered the possible increase in post-meal blood glucose.
Fenugreek Recipes For Diabetes
With all the studies conducted, and the benefits of taking fenugreek documented, how then do you add it to your diet?
Fenugreek seeds have a nutty yet bitter taste and are often used in spice blends. Many Indian recipes use them in sauces, curries, and pickles, but you can take it as a tea, or sprinkle its powder over yogurt. However, you can consult your nutritionist about how to add it to your meal plan.
We’ve compiled a list of 15 different Fenugreek recipes you can use if you’re a diabetic or know someone with diabetes, so you can pick one or more that you can incorporate into your daily meal plan.
To make these healthy, diabetic-friendly chapatis, you’ll need:
- Wheat flour
- Fenugreek seed powder
- Soak the fenugreek seeds overnight, dry and powder them
- Add the powder to the wheat flour to make the dough
- Divide the dough into four equal balls, and roll them into round chapatis
- Next, fry them one after another on the frying pan until browned well, and pat with a cloth to puff
2. Methi Parantha
- Whole wheat flour (atta)
- Chopped fenugreek or methi leaves
- Ajwain or carom seeds
- Finely chopped green chilies or red chili powder
- Finely chopped ginger or garlic
- Olive oil
- Salt and water as needed
- Take 1 cup whole wheat flour and put it in a bowl.
- Add carom seeds, salt and 1 or 2 green finely chopped chili, and 1.5 teaspoons of finely chopped garlic. Mix well.
- Add half cup chopped fenugreek or methi leaves and knead well while adding some warm water until you get a smooth texture.
- Pour 1 teaspoon olive oil, knead for two minutes until you have a non-sticky but soft dough.
- Cover the dough and leave it to rest for 20 minutes.
- Divide the dough into smooth balls, roll them into round paranthas (make sure they’re not too thick or thin) and place on a hot Tawa or flat skillet until you see tiny bubbles on the parantha.
- Flip the parantha while drizzling some oil on the surface, and press lightly so it puffs up. Do this for both sides until they’re slightly brown and cooked evenly. You can serve with chutney or raita, plain yogurt, or some tea.
- Fenugreek seeds
- Oil and salt
- Soak fenugreek seeds overnight, dry and powder them.
- Add salt to the powder, plus Besan and turmeric. Make a batter using curd water and keep for 6 hours to ferment.
- Add a pinch of soda-bicarbonate powder and mix thoroughly.
- Pour the mixture onto a greased disk, sprinkle chili powder and steam until it sets.
- Cool it and cut it into small pieces. Season with red chilies, mustard seed, and coriander leaves.
4. Dal with Fenugreek Seeds
- Toor Dal
- Fenugreek seeds
- Garlic cloves (small)
- Green chilies
- Cumin seeds
- Coriander leaves (chopped)
- Tamarind paste
- Turmeric powder
- Dry or desiccated shredded coconut
- Salt and jaggery to taste
- Wash the fenugreek seeds and dal. Add the fenugreek and half teaspoon turmeric powder, half teaspoon oil, water and asafetida to the dal. Pressure cook until it’s soft.
- Mash the dal and keep it aside.
- Heat a pan and toast the coconut over until it’s light brown. Add cumin seeds and toss the mixture. Remove it and grind until it’s a paste.
- Chop four green chilies and crush small garlic cloves. Heat oil in your pan and let the mustard seeds sizzle on it. add asafetida, half teaspoon turmeric, crushed garlic cloves, and chilies, and then add dal and water until it boils.
- Turn the heat to a medium, and add coconut masala, tamarind paste, salt, and jaggary to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Top with coriander leaves and serve.
- Suji Semolina
- Green chilies
- Black gram dal and Bengal gram dal
- Fenugreek seeds
- Oil, salt, and water
- Ground fenugreek seeds into a fine powder and chop green chilies, onions, and then splutter mustard in hot oil.
- Add black and Bengal gram daals and fry for a few seconds.
- Add the chopped onions and green chilies, and fry until the onions are slightly brown.
- Add fenugreek powder, or Rava, and fry for one minute. Add salt and water and cook slowly on the fire while stirring until done.
Raita is a popular side dish that accompanies many meals in Indian households, but they’re popular across the country despite its variations in different regional cuisines.
It’s made of curd made from low-fat milk or yogurt (low fat), spices and green vegetables including fenugreek, while the vegetables and spices don’t contain calories, which is why they can be consumed easily and freely by diabetics.
They’re easy to make too so you won’t need any over-the-top cooking skills.
- 1 cup Curd
- Bathua leaves
- Cumin seeds (Jeera)
- Red chili powder as desired and salt to taste
- Beat the curd with a spoon or mathani into a smooth homogenous texture.
- Add the boiled and mashed Bathua leaves and mix well with the curd.
- Add water (half cup) and mix everything very well.
- Next, add one teaspoon of cumin seeds (jeera) on a frying pan and turn until they’re dark brown. Grind them into a powder by pressing using a spoon or hard object, and sprinkle onto the first mixture of curd and Bathua leaves.
- Add salt to taste, garnish with your preferred toppings like red chili powder, pomegranate seeds, or mint leaves and serve.
7. Methi Sprouts Salad
- Methi seeds (sprouted)
- Other mixed veggies
- Soak the methi seeds in water overnight and cover with a muslin cloth. Once you see the seeds sprout completely, take them and put in a bowl
- Take two tablespoons of the methi sprouts, add your lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, capsicum, and other vegetables you like
- Season the salad with some lemon, pepper, or your favorite topping and enjoy
8. Fenugreek Dosa
Dosa is a crispy shallow fried pancake that’s great as a snack or for breakfast. You can make a fenugreek dosa by blending together fenugreek seeds, urad dal, and soaked rice.
- Rice (2 cups)
- Fenugreek seeds
- White urad dal (black lentil split and without skin)
- Soak the rice, fenugreek seeds (1 tbsp) and 2 tablespoons of white urad dal in water for three hours
- Grind all of them into a regular dosa consistency while adding some water
- Add salt
- Mix everything well together
- Leave the mixture overnight
- Pour the mixture on a Tawa, add some oil and close it up with a lid for up to 10 seconds, without turning the dosa
- The dosa can be served with mint chutney or tomato if you prefer
9. Methi Crispies
Crisps are great for snacking at any time. You can make these healthy diabetes-friendly methi crispies for yourself and enjoy them as a snack whenever you want.
- Chopped fenugreek leaves
- Whole wheat flour
- Quick-cooking rolled oats
- Sesame seeds, cumin, and carom seeds
- Low-fat curd
- Turmeric powder
- Oil and salt to taste
- Mix a quarter cup chopped fenugreek leaves, half cup wheat flour, quarter cup quick-cooking oats, two tsp sesame seeds, half tsp carom seeds, and half tsp cumin seeds, a pinch of turmeric powder, two teaspoons of oil, salt, and two tbsp. low-fat curd together in a bowl.
- Use enough water and knead the mixture into a firm dough
- Divide the dough into equal portions and then roll each into a circle.
- Heat a non-stick griddle and cook the dough gently on both sides until halfway done, then set aside to cool
- Prick regularly using a fork at different intervals.
- Cut them into small squares or diamonds and place them on a greased baking tray
- Bake for up to 20 minutes in a preheated oven 180 degrees centigrade or 360 degrees Fahrenheit
- Leave them to cool before snacking and/or store in an air-tight jar or container.
10. Bitter Gourd with Fenugreek Leaves
- Fenugreek leaves
- Bitter gourd (four pieces)
- One onion
- Four dry red chilies
- Dry coconut half cup
- 7 pieces of garlic
- 1 bunch of curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- Roasted chana dal
- Oil, salt to taste
- Take your pan and add some oil, coriander seeds, dry red chilies, tamarind, fenugreek leaves, roasted chana dal, and salt. Mix them well and saute for up to three minutes.
- Add these ingredients into a mixie jar and make a coarse paste.
- Take your bitter gourd, stuff the mixture into it, tie with a thread and then put it on the pan by adding oil. Let it cook for about three minutes.
- Add your chopped onion, turmeric powder, and curry leaves and cook for up to six minutes.
- Add the masala and cook for another four minutes before serving it hot.
Potential Risks Of Fenugreek
Besides being a rich source of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that protect your body’s cells from damage by free radicals, fenugreek has its potential risks.
It’s been used and is still used for several purposes, but not everyone knows the downsides of using this herb.
According to NCCIH, there’s not enough information on the herb’s safety for different user groups including pregnant and lactating women, among others. It could cause allergic reactions especially if you add it to some meals in your diet, which is why you should consult your doctor first before using any of the above recipes.
Similarly, if you’re on medication, the fiber in the fenugreek herb could make your body’s absorption of the meds taken by mouth less effective. Don’t use it within hours of taking such meds though.
Plus, you need your diabetes healthcare team to make sure that fenugreek is actually safe for you before you go ahead and add it to your meals.
It could cause hypoglycemia, which means your blood sugars go too low, as with other blood-sugar reducing herbs, especially when taking it with other prescribed drugs for your condition. The result of this is your dose may have to be adjusted or changed altogether.
Besides lowering blood sugar, some other side effects of taking fenugreek include bloating, gas, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, stomach upset, and an odor in your sweat or urine. It could also cause facial swelling, nasal congestion, severe allergic reactions, wheezing, coughing, and more.
Make sure you watch for any signs of hypoglycemia and monitor the levels of your blood sugar constantly and carefully when using fenugreek in your meals.
The amounts used for cooking are generally considered safe, but ensure you talk to your doctor before you take the herb.
You can find fenugreek or methi leaves and seeds in many food stores if you want to add them to your meals, especially Asian food stores.
For diabetics, adding as little as 5 to as much as 100 grams of fenugreek seed powder to one or two meals every day is optimal.
However, sticking to minimally processed foods and high fiber like fruits, vegetables and grains are recommended. Also ensure you eat lean protein, healthy fats, and be active at least 30 minutes daily while taking your medications as prescribed.
Talk to your doctor and dietitian before using any of these recipes, or changing your diet and lifestyle altogether.
Diana Paul is a certified nutritionist who writes for leading health blogs. She is a master herbalist, yoga teacher, forager, and wild-crafting writer She is focused on helping people transform life blocks to opportunities. Based in NYC, she often holds health seminars and lectures.