The World's Healthiest Foods are health-promoting foods that can change your life.

Try the exciting new recipe from Day 4 of our upcoming 7-Day Meal Plan.

The George Mateljan Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests or
advertising. Our mission is to help you eat and cook the healthiest way for optimal health.
Cumin seeds
Cumin seeds

Although the small cumin seed looks rather unassuming, its nutty peppery flavor packs a punch when it comes to adding a nutty and peppery flavor to chili and other Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes as well playing an important role in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine where it is a key component of curry powder. Both whole and ground cumin are available year-round.

Cumin seeds resemble caraway seeds, being oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color. This is not surprising as both cumin and caraway, as well as parsley and dill, belong to the same plant family (Umbelliferae).

Cumin, seeds
2.00 tsp
(4.20 grams)
Calories: 16
GI: very low

NutrientDRI/DV

 iron16%


 copper4%






This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Cumin seeds provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Cumin seeds can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Cumin seeds, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

Health Benefits

It is probably not just for taste alone that cumin has made it into the stellar ranks of Indian, Middle Eastern and Mexican cooking. This ordinary looking seed is anything but ordinary when it comes to health benefits.

Iron for Energy and Immune Function

Cumin seeds, whose scientific name is Cuminum cyminum, are an excellent source of iron, a mineral that plays many vital roles in the body. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. Additionally, iron is instrumental in keeping your immune system healthy. Iron is particularly important for menstruating women, who lose iron each month during menses. Additionally, growing children and adolescents have increased needs for iron, as do women who are pregnant or lactating.

Seeds of Good Digestion

Cumin seeds have traditionally been noted to be of benefit to the digestive system, and scientific research is beginning to bear out cumin's age-old reputation. Research has shown that cumin may stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes, compounds necessary for proper digestion and nutrient assimilation.

Cancer Prevention

Cumin seeds may also have anti-carcinogenic properties. In one study, cumin was shown to protect laboratory animals from developing stomach or liver tumors. This cancer-protective effect may be due to cumin's potent free radical scavenging abilities as well as the ability it has shown to enhance the liver's detoxification enzymes. Yet, since free radical scavenging and detoxification are important considerations for the general maintenance of wellness, cumin's contribution to wellness may be even more farther reaching.

Description

Although the small cumin seed looks rather unassuming, it packs a punch when it comes to flavor, which can be described as penetrating and peppery with slight citrus overtones. Cumin's unique flavor complexity has made it an integral spice in the cuisines of Mexico, India and the Middle East.

Cumin seeds resemble caraway seeds, being oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color. This is not surprising as both cumin and caraway, as well as parsley and dill, belong to the same plant family (Umbelliferae). The scientific name for cumin is Cuminum cyminum.

Cumin is available both in its whole seed form and ground into a powder.

History

Cumin is native to Egypt and has been cultivated in the Middle East, India, China and Mediterranean countries for millennia. Throughout history, cumin has played an important role as a food and medicine and has been a cultural symbol with varied attributes.

Cumin was mentioned in the Bible not only as a seasoning for soup and bread, but also as a currency used to pay tithes to the priests. In ancient Egypt, cumin was not only used as a culinary spice, it was also an ingredient used to mummify pharaohs.

Cumin seeds were highly honored as a culinary seasoning in both ancient Greek and Roman kitchens. Cumin's popularity was partly due to the fact that its peppery flavor made it a viable replacement for black pepper, which was very expensive and hard to come by. Cumin was also noted for both its medicinal and cosmetic properties. Its application to induce a pallid complexion was frequently employed by many students trying to convince their teachers that they had pulled "all-nighters" studying for their classes.

Although a much prized spice, cumin became a symbol of frugality and greed in ancient Rome. Both Marcus Aurelius and Antoninus Pius, emperors with a reputation for their avarice, were given nicknames that included reference to cumin.

During the Middle Ages in Europe, cumin was one of the most common spices used. Around that time, cumin added another attribute to its repertoire—it became recognized as a symbol of love and fidelity. People carried cumin in their pockets when attending wedding ceremonies, and married soldiers were sent off to war with a loaf of cumin bread baked by their wives. Cumin's use for fortifying love is also represented in certain Arabic traditions in which a paste of ground cumin, pepper and honey is thought to have aphrodisiac properties.

While it still maintained an important role in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, the popularity of cumin in Europe declined after the Middle Ages. Today, cumin is experiencing renewed recognition owing to newfound appreciation of its culinary and therapeutic properties.

How to Select and Store

Whenever possible, buy whole cumin seeds instead of cumin powder since the latter loses its flavor more quickly, and the seeds can be easily ground with a mortar and pestle.

Even through dried herbs and spices are widely available in supermarkets, explore the local spice stores or ethnic markets in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness compared to those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown dried cumin since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.

Cumin seeds and cumin powder should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Ground cumin will keep for about six months, while the whole seeds will stay fresh for about one year.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

Tips for Cooking with Cumin

To bring out the fullness of their aroma and flavor, lightly roast whole cumin seeds before using them in a recipe.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
  • The combination of cumin, black pepper and honey is considered to be an aphrodisiac in certain middle Eastern countries. Whether or not this potion will actually inspire Cupid's arrows, it is certainly a tasty combination that can be used to flavor vegetables, chicken and fish dishes.
  • Make a cup of warming and soothing cumin tea by boiling seeds in water and then letting them steep for 8-10 minutes.
  • As the taste of cumin is a great complement to the hearty flavor of legumes such as lentils, garbanzo beans and black beans, add this spice when preparing a recipe with these foods.
  • Take plain brown rice and magically give it special pizzazz by adding cumin seeds, dried apricots and almonds.
  • Seasoning healthy sautéed vegetables with cumin will give them a North African flair.

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Nutritional Profile

Cumin seeds are an excellent of iron, a very good source of manganese, and a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin B1.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling." Read more background information and details of our rating system.

Cumin, seeds
2.00 tsp
4.20 grams
Calories: 16
GI: very low
NutrientAmountDRI/DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
iron2.79 mg1617.7excellent
manganese0.14 mg78.0very good
copper0.04 mg45.1good
calcium39.10 mg44.5good
magnesium15.37 mg44.4good
phosphorus20.96 mg33.4good
vitamin B10.03 mg32.9good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DRI/DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
very good DRI/DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
good DRI/DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, here is an in-depth nutritional profile for Cumin seeds. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Cumin, seeds
(Note: "--" indicates data unavailable)
2.00 tsp
(4.20 g)
GI: very low
BASIC MACRONUTRIENTS AND CALORIES
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Protein0.75 g2
Carbohydrates1.86 g1
Fat - total0.94 g--
Dietary Fiber0.44 g2
Calories15.751
MACRONUTRIENT AND CALORIE DETAIL
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Carbohydrate:
Starch-- g
Total Sugars0.09 g
Monosaccharides-- g
Fructose-- g
Glucose-- g
Galactose-- g
Disaccharides-- g
Lactose-- g
Maltose-- g
Sucrose-- g
Soluble Fiber-- g
Insoluble Fiber-- g
Other Carbohydrates1.32 g
Fat:
Monounsaturated Fat0.59 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.14 g
Saturated Fat0.06 g
Trans Fat0.00 g
Calories from Fat8.42
Calories from Saturated Fat0.58
Calories from Trans Fat0.00
Cholesterol0.00 mg
Water0.34 g
MICRONUTRIENTS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Vitamins
Water-Soluble Vitamins
B-Complex Vitamins
Vitamin B10.03 mg3
Vitamin B20.01 mg1
Vitamin B30.19 mg1
Vitamin B3 (Niacin Equivalents)0.19 mg
Vitamin B60.02 mg1
Vitamin B120.00 mcg0
Biotin-- mcg--
Choline1.04 mg0
Folate0.42 mcg0
Folate (DFE)0.42 mcg
Folate (food)0.42 mcg
Pantothenic Acid-- mg--
Vitamin C0.32 mg0
Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Vitamin A (Retinoids and Carotenoids)
Vitamin A International Units (IU)53.34 IU
Vitamin A mcg Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE)2.67 mcg (RAE)0
Vitamin A mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)5.33 mcg (RE)
Retinol mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)0.00 mcg (RE)
Carotenoid mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)5.33 mcg (RE)
Alpha-Carotene0.00 mcg
Beta-Carotene32.00 mcg
Beta-Carotene Equivalents32.00 mcg
Cryptoxanthin0.00 mcg
Lutein and Zeaxanthin18.82 mcg
Lycopene0.00 mcg
Vitamin D
Vitamin D International Units (IU)0.00 IU0
Vitamin D mcg0.00 mcg
Vitamin E
Vitamin E mg Alpha-Tocopherol Equivalents (ATE)0.14 mg (ATE)1
Vitamin E International Units (IU)0.21 IU
Vitamin E mg0.14 mg
Vitamin K0.23 mcg0
Minerals
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Boron-- mcg
Calcium39.10 mg4
Chloride-- mg
Chromium-- mcg--
Copper0.04 mg4
Fluoride-- mg--
Iodine-- mcg--
Iron2.79 mg16
Magnesium15.37 mg4
Manganese0.14 mg7
Molybdenum-- mcg--
Phosphorus20.96 mg3
Potassium75.10 mg2
Selenium0.22 mcg0
Sodium7.06 mg0
Zinc0.20 mg2
INDIVIDUAL FATTY ACIDS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids0.01 g0
Omega-6 Fatty Acids0.13 g
Monounsaturated Fats
14:1 Myristoleic0.00 g
15:1 Pentadecenoic0.00 g
16:1 Palmitol0.01 g
17:1 Heptadecenoic0.00 g
18:1 Oleic0.57 g
20:1 Eicosenoic0.01 g
22:1 Erucic0.00 g
24:1 Nervonic0.00 g
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
18:2 Linoleic0.13 g
18:2 Conjugated Linoleic (CLA)-- g
18:3 Linolenic0.01 g
18:4 Stearidonic0.00 g
20:3 Eicosatrienoic0.00 g
20:4 Arachidonic0.00 g
20:5 Eicosapentaenoic (EPA)0.00 g
22:5 Docosapentaenoic (DPA)0.00 g
22:6 Docosahexaenoic (DHA)0.00 g
Saturated Fatty Acids
4:0 Butyric0.00 g
6:0 Caproic0.00 g
8:0 Caprylic0.00 g
10:0 Capric0.00 g
12:0 Lauric0.00 g
14:0 Myristic0.00 g
15:0 Pentadecanoic0.00 g
16:0 Palmitic0.05 g
17:0 Margaric0.00 g
18:0 Stearic0.01 g
20:0 Arachidic0.00 g
22:0 Behenate0.00 g
24:0 Lignoceric0.00 g
INDIVIDUAL AMINO ACIDS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Alanine-- g
Arginine-- g
Aspartic Acid-- g
Cysteine-- g
Glutamic Acid-- g
Glycine-- g
Histidine-- g
Isoleucine-- g
Leucine-- g
Lysine-- g
Methionine-- g
Phenylalanine-- g
Proline-- g
Serine-- g
Threonine-- g
Tryptophan-- g
Tyrosine-- g
Valine-- g
OTHER COMPONENTS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Ash0.32 g
Organic Acids (Total)-- g
Acetic Acid-- g
Citric Acid-- g
Lactic Acid-- g
Malic Acid-- g
Taurine-- g
Sugar Alcohols (Total)-- g
Glycerol-- g
Inositol-- g
Mannitol-- g
Sorbitol-- g
Xylitol-- g
Artificial Sweeteners (Total)-- mg
Aspartame-- mg
Saccharin-- mg
Alcohol0.00 g
Caffeine0.00 mg

Note:

The nutrient profiles provided in this website are derived from The Food Processor, Version 10.12.0, ESHA Research, Salem, Oregon, USA. Among the 50,000+ food items in the master database and 163 nutritional components per item, specific nutrient values were frequently missing from any particular food item. We chose the designation "--" to represent those nutrients for which no value was included in this version of the database.

References

  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986. 1986. PMID:15210.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York. 1996.
  • Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Dover Publications, New York. 1971.
  • Martinez-Tome M, Jimenez AM, Ruggieri S, et al. Antioxidant properties of Mediterranean spices compared with common food additives. J Food Prot 2001 Sep;64(9):1412-9. 2001. PMID:12440.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988. 1988. PMID:15220.

Printer friendly version

Send this page to a friend...

rss


Newsletter SignUp

Your Email:

Find Out What Foods You Should Eat This Week

Also find out about the recipe, nutrient and hot topic of the week on our home page.

 

Everything you want to know about healthy eating and cooking from our new book.
2nd Edition
Order this Incredible 2nd Edition at the same low price of $39.95 and also get 2 FREE gifts valued at $51.95. Read more


Healthy Eating
Healthy Cooking
Nutrients from Food
Website Articles
Community
Privacy Policy and Visitor Agreement
References
For education only, consult a healthcare practitioner for any health problems.

We're Number 1
in the World!

35 million visitors per year.
The World's Healthiest Foods website is a leading source of information and expert on the Healthiest Way of Eating and Cooking. It's one of the most visited website on the internet when it comes to "Healthiest Foods" and "Healthiest Recipes" and comes up #1 on a Google search for these phrases.

Over 100 Quick &
Easy Recipes

Our Recipe Assistant will help you find the recipe that suits your personal needs. The majority of recipes we offer can be both prepared and cooked in 20 minutes or less from start to finish; a whole meal can be prepared in 30 minutes. A number of them can also be prepared ahead of time and enjoyed later.

World's Healthiest
Foods
is expanded

What's in our new book:
  • 180 more pages
  • Smart Menu
  • Nutrient-Rich Cooking
  • 300 New Recipes
  • New Nutrient Articles and Profiles
  • New Photos and Design
privacy policy and visitor agreement | who we are | site map | what's new
For education only, consult a healthcare practitioner for any health problems.
© 2001-2017 The George Mateljan Foundation, All Rights Reserved