Have you ever heard of caraway? If not — it comes as no surprise. Caraway seeds are notorious for being underappreciated and underused in kitchens across the nation. But in my opinion, caraway seeds have a distinct flavor that’s floral, peppery, and extremely memorable.
(After all, I could NEVER imagine pastrami on rye without it!)
So, to help the two of you get better acquainted, here’s some insight into how you can start using this long-forgotten spice — and a little bit about its incredible health benefits.
Planting the Caraway Seed
Now, caraway seeds are probably what you’ve seen in the spice aisle at the market. But before these tiny gems can be plucked and used in popular dishes like rye bread and cabbage stew, the caraway plant has to be in full bloom.
The caraway plant is known to thrive in damp meadows, lush pastures, and even along roadsides, and grows around three feet tall. That said, don’t expect to find this plant blooming along the highway. The caraway plant has its roots in western Asia, Europe, and North Africa — and flourishes best in its native soil.
And while caraway is has a distinct taste — would you believe that it’s actually part of the carrot family? That’s right. Both caraway and carrots are Apiaceae flowers — which are biennial plants that take two FULL years to grow.
The Many Faces of Caraway
The caraway plant actually goes by many different aliases… including carum carvi, meridian fennel and Persian cumin. You read that right — fennel and cumin! See, carum carvi actually shares many characteristics with each of these spices — most notably their strong, bold fragrance.
However, even though they’re closely related — and may even look identical at first glance…
Once you take a bite, you’ll immediately recognize the distinct flavor that caraway brings to the table.
Now, before we can tackle the many uses and health benefits that caraway has to offer… let’s go back in time a bit.
How Does the Stone Age Sound?
That’s right — the caraway plant has actually been linked to prehistoric times. In fact, there’s evidence that it could have been one of the very first condiments. (You know, once our ancestors learned how to spread, schmear, and dip!)
Not to mention, caraway has also been linked to some pretty interesting folklore. For instance, in medieval times, it was thought to help the love between two partners strong… while in Germany, it is believed that ANYTHING containing a caraway seed inside it could never be stolen. (Time to throw one or two caraway seeds in your safety deposit box!)
The Many Uses of Caraway
While caraway shines in caraway essential oil, it’s also a major component in many different household products. It’s used in chewing gum and toothpaste, for example, to improve the taste. In fact, caraway oil is sometimes combined with other oils to help people suffering from gingivitis.5
Plus, it’s distinctive aroma makes it perfect for use in soaps, candles, and perfumes.6
If you’re curious about using caraway essential oil for yourself — lucky for you, it’s extremely easy. Just put a few drops in a diffuser and the aroma will help melt away your stress. And if you want to really amplify your “relaxation experience” — go ahead and add a few drops to a warm bath.
Health Benefits of Caraway Seeds
Now, while caraway is delicious, fragrant, and easy to use in many household products… it has a few wonderful health benefits. Here are just a few:
1. Provides a 1-2 Punch of Antioxidants:
You’ve no doubt heard of antioxidants. Well, caraway seeds are packed with them. Antioxidants are what protect your cells from any damage caused by “outsiders” known as free radicals.
Unfortunately, free radicals everywhere — and difficult to avoid. Not only are they in the foods we eat, but also the air we breathe, toxins from products we use, and even from having too much sugar in your system. Luckily, caraway seeds provide your body with a boost of antioxidants it needs to protect your system from these harmful “invaders”.7
2. Gets Your “Slimming Systems” Up & Running:
For such a tiny morsel, caraway seeds sure do contain an impressive amount of fiber. So if you’re looking to shed a few pesky pounds, caraway seeds might be the addition you need.
See, fiber is one of the most beneficial nutrients when it comes to slimming down — and for one simple reason: The more fiber you eat, the fuller you feel.
According to one study, people who supplemented their diet with caraway oil extract for three months saw impressive reductions in body fat percentage and total weight. Plus, they made no other changes to their diet or exercise regimens.8
So if you really want to get your “slimming systems” up and running for the new season — caraway seeds could help you reach your goals.
3. Helping You Get a Good Night’s Sleep:
A good night’s rest is hard to come by, especially as we get a little older. Luckily, caraway seeds have shown help improve sleep quality. See, caraway seeds contain trace amounts of magnesium — which has been linked to a better night’s rest.
In one study, elderly participants with trouble sleeping received either 500 mg of magnesium or a placebo each day for two months. Participants who received magnesium saw didn’t just notice increases in sleep time, but were “lights out” once they hit the pillow.9
4. A Natural Probiotic:
Nobody likes to deal with constipation, gas, or bloating, right?
Well, luckily caraway seeds have been used for centuries as a natural digestive aid.
There are a couple of reasons why this is.
Like I mentioned earlier, caraway seeds are high in fiber — which naturally helps “move things along” your digestive tract to prevent that awful “backed up” feeling.10
However, caraway has also been linked to having natural antimicrobial properties — meaning it can help maintain a healthy balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut. Ideally, you want to have 80% good bacteria, and 20% bad bacteria. That way, your digestion can stay smooth, and you won’t deal with pesky gas or bloating after meals.
Luckily, caraway seeds are the perfect addition to your diet to help your good gut bugs thrive. So, here’s one of my all-time favorite caraway-filled recipes for a healthy, happy gut:
Caraway & Fennel “Happy Gut” Sauerkraut
- 1 head green cabbage (3 pounds), shredded (14 cups), 3 whole small leaves reserved
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- 1 tablespoon caraway spice
- 1 tablespoon fennel spice
- 2 fennel bulbs, sliced thinly
- 2 green apples, cored and sliced thinly
- Coarse sea salt
- In a large bowl, combine cabbage, caraway seeds, fennel spice, caraway spice, and 1 tablespoon of salt.
- Let the mixture stand for 20 minutes, to allow time for the salt to help release some liquid from the cabbage.
- Using your hands, go ahead and massage the cabbage to get as much liquid (or brine) out as you can. Then, mix in your fennel bulbs and apple.
- Pack your cabbage mixture into 3 pint-size mason jars, making sure your brine covers cabbage by at least 1 inch. (Make sure to leave 1 to 2 inches of space between your cabbage and the lid – since this will “expand” over time!)
- Close jars tightly, and place them on top of a glass baking or pan 2-inch-high sides in case they leak a bit. Let it stand in a cool, dark place for 5 days.
- Once a day, make sure to open and close the lid at least once or twice to release any pressure.
- After the 5 days are up, go ahead and taste it to see if your kraut is sour enough for you. If not, let it stand until it’s to your liking. (The longer it sits, the sourer it will be.)
*Once it’s to your liking, you can refrigerate it for up to 6 months!
Not only does the recipe fuel your gut with plenty of beneficial bacteria from the cabbage — it’s also bursting with caraway. It’s delicious served on top of a lean pork chop, or on its own as a quick gut-friendly snack.
Get Carried Away with Caraway!
So, are you and caraway seeds good friends yet? I sure hope so. After all, this special spice has a benefit for almost early single person out there. If you’re someone who loves to try new things and get creative in the kitchen — sprinkling a few caraway seeds into a loaf of bread or into a stew is sure to take things to the next level.
Or, if you find yourself constantly battling digestive issues after meals, consider supplementing your daily routine with just a bit of caraway. (Not to mention, it could help you slim down a bit in the meantime!)
As always, while there are a lot of health benefits associated with caraway seeds — you should always speak to your doctor if you’re looking to include them in your diet on a daily basis.
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