A flower that’s used in many different ways all over the world, fennel is actually a member of the carrot family. Fennel is an herb that contains bulbs that are both edible and have a great taste. The bulbs that we eat from the fennel plant are also high in nutrition. Though you won’t see many people eating fennel bulbs on their own, it should be more common. One of the big reasons is that fennel can be quite expensive to find in simple bulb form.
Most of the time when you’ve had fennel, it’s likely as an ingredient that’s part of a larger meal such as a salad. With almost all of the world’s regions producing fennel (with India and Mexico as the largest producers), fennel has been around you and you might not even know it. Let’s take a look at some of the nutritional value of fennel and some of the great health benefits that happen when you add fennel to your diet.
Nutrition of Fennel
If you like foods that are incredibly low in calories, yet still pack a lot of nutrition, you’ll be a huge fan of fennel. Each one cup serving of fennel contains only 27 calories, while offering up more than one gram of protein and over 10 percent of your daily recommendation for fiber. Out of the vitamins, vitamin C is the most abundant with nearly 20 percent daily value, while giving you around five percent of the recommended vitamin A, riboflavin, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid.
Fennel contains almost zero fat at just 0.2 grams, and no cholesterol or saturated fat. In the mineral department, fennel has 10 percent of your daily potassium and nearly just as much manganese. Though in smaller amounts, fennel also contains a significant amount of your needed calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper with trace amounts of both zinc and selenium. Overall, fennel packs quite the punch without the calories.
Since an entire cup of fennel only has 27 calories, it’s one of those foods that some people have called “negative calorie” since you exert nearly as much energy eating it as the amount of calories that you take in. While fennel might not be as satisfying as certain favorite snack foods, the calorie swap alone is going to add up quickly and translate into an estimated 15 to 20 pound weight loss alone when you replace a 150 calorie snack with fennel.
Not only is fennel low in calories, but it gives you the feeling that you’re full. Part of that is the high concentration of water in fennel, but also the solid amount of fiber. It’s estimated that a large majority of Americans aren’t getting enough fiber, so adding even 10 percent more than you’re getting could lead to an extra one pound of fat lost per month. When combined with a low calorie diet, that leads to great weight loss success.
While each serving doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of nutrients that your bones need in each serving, fennel likely contains more of these than you’re already getting. One of the big ones is calcium, which you already know you need for better bone health. Calcium alone isn’t going to make your bones stronger, though, as you also need solid amounts of other compounds such as magnesium and phosphorus.
These minerals increase your body’s ability to absorb calcium into your bones, resulting in a reduced risk of osteoporosis as you age. Vitamin K is also essential to bone health, and you’ll find a decent amount in fennel. There are also anti-inflammatory properties in fennel that can reduce the pains of arthritis, and even prevent you from ever getting it in the first place.
We briefly mentioned the solid amount of fiber that you get in fennel, but the benefits for your digestive system don’t end there. Fennel, especially as an essential oil, is used for a lot of digestive problems that include indigestion, excess gas, constipation and many more. Fiber plays a part by introducing probiotics that can get rid of harmful bacteria, while fennel also increases the amount of digestive juices you create.
Fennel has even been shown to reduce dyspepsia and will make you more regular when you’re eating enough in your diet. No matter what ailment you might be suffering from that’s affecting your everyday life, using fennel in one way or another might help you out. Relieving digestive problems also gives you an energy boost while increasing your metabolism.
Most experts will tell you that if you want to increase your longevity and protect your heart, you need to eat more vegetables in your diet. Fennel is a great choice for its ability to lower your blood pressure. Fennel contains a high amount of potassium in each serving, relieving stress in your vessels and getting rid of excess sodium. Anti-inflammatory properties of fennel further assist in lowering blood pressure.
Cholesterol is the other big factor in heart health, and fennel helps in that department, too. Fiber is able to naturally lower your cholesterol, while nutrients such as vitamin C provide further assistance. Eating fennel both lowers your LDL (bad) cholesterol and raises your HDL (good) cholesterol levels to keep them more balanced.
Keeping your heart healthy will ensure that you live for much longer, you’ll want to increase your eye health as you get older, as well. For most people, vision will deteriorate year after year, but you can make sure that vision loss slows down by eating fennel thanks to the high amount of antioxidants and vitamins. Vitamin C and flavonoids are two huge factors in eye health, slowing vision loss and also preventing age related problems such as macular degeneration. Throw in a solid amount of vitamin A to keep free radicals from attacking your eyes, and you won’t be needing a new glasses prescription each year.
Summing it Up
Eating fennel has a ton of benefits and is low in calories, leading you to believe that there might be a lot of negatives as it seems too good to be true. Thankfully, there aren’t many side effects that you’ll have to worry about when you eat more fennel in your diet. Of course, there are some people that could be allergic, but this number of people isn’t expected to be very high. It’s also suggested that women who are pregnant or nursing should use caution with fennel and speak with a doctor first.
Fennel could also affect certain medications, especially for people that have bleeding disorders or have diseases that are sensitive to hormones. Most people won’t experience any problems when they’re eating more fennel, leading this to be one of the safer foods out there. Because of all of the positives that come with fennel, it’s not hard to see why it’s one of our favorite vegetables, and certainly one you should be eating more of.