7 research-backed benefits of cardamom and how to use this versatile spice more often
- Cardamom, which belongs to the ginger plant family, can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.
- It has antibacterial properties and may lower blood sugar and boost oral, heart, and liver health.
Cardamom, which comes from seed pods of the plant Elettaria cardamomum, is an aromatic spice that belongs to the same plant family as ginger.
Commonly used in cuisines of India and the Middle East to enhance both sweet and savory dishes, it's also widely used in northern Europe and Russia as an ingredient in baked goods.
Cardamom whole pods, seeds, or ground powder lend a distinct floral aroma and taste to items like chai and coffee, rice and curries, and a variety of baked goods.
Cardamom can certainly brighten up your recipes, but in addition to culinary uses, cardamom may also offer a variety of health benefits, from freshening your breath to possibly killing cancer cells.
Read on to learn more about seven key benefits of cardamom.
1. It has antibacterial properties
"The antibacterial properties of cardamom are due to a chemical called eugenol. This chemical is responsible for the spicy smell of the seeds," Reda Elmardi, a registered dietician and owner of The Gym Goat says.
A 2017 study suggests cardamom may have the ability to help control infections. The researchers tested cardamom essential oil on bacterial strains and found that it inhibited the growth of some common pathogens, including:
- Salmonella, which causes about 1.35 million foodborne illnesses per year.
- Staph, another common foodborne bacterium that causes about 240,000 illnesses per year.
- Candida, the cause of many fungal infections.
2. It could lower blood sugar and inflammation
In the study, 83 people with type 2 diabetes took a 3 g cardamom supplement daily for 10 weeks. According to the results, cardamom reduced participants' hemoglobin A1C — a test of average blood sugar — and Homa-IR — a measurement of insulin resistance more than a placebo supplement of rusk powder.
3. It can promote oral health
Cardamom makes a great breath freshener, but it may provide additional benefits for your teeth and gums.
4. It may improve liver health
A small 2018 study suggests cardamom may help reduce liver inflammation. In the study, 43 people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and a BMI of 25 or greater took two 500 mg capsules of cardamom with meals three times per day for three months. In that time, biomarkers of inflammation in the liver decreased and protective factors increased, compared to a placebo group.
Although this study focused on people who already had liver issues, the results highlight the possibility that cardamom may decrease inflammation and have an overall positive impact on liver health.
5. It can boost heart health
Cardamom may have benefits for multiple aspects of your cardiovascular system.
A review of five studies found that cardamom supplementation appeared to have a significant effect in lowering levels of triglycerides — a form of fat that can lead to plaque buildup in your blood vessels and raise your risk of heart attack, stroke, or heart disease.
Another small study from 2009 found that 1/2 teaspoon per day for 12 weeks of cardamom significantly reduced blood pressure and increased antioxidant status, says Jessica Houston, a nutritional scientist and founder of VItamin and Me.
By the end of the study, the 20 participants' blood pressure, which started out at an average of 154/92 mm HG, had dropped to an average of 134/80 mm HG — much closer to a healthy blood pressure, which is 120/80 mm HG.
6. It may reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy
A 2015 study divided 120 pregnant people with mild to moderate nausea and vomiting into two groups: One group took a placebo, and the other group took 500 mg of cardamom powder three times a day, half an hour before meals. The cardamom group had less intense feelings of nausea and less frequent vomiting compared to those taking a placebo.
7. It could help fight cancer cells
A number of studies suggest cardamom may be able to cause apoptosis, or induce the death of cancer cells. These studies were all done in vitro — by testing cells in a lab — so their results can't be translated to humans.
Researchers have found that cardamom appears to suppress growth and cause apoptosis in the following types of cancer cells in a lab:
How to use cardamom
"As with any nutrient, a food-first approach is important and adequate for most people," Houston says.
Cardamom supplements seem to be generally safe for most people, but in very rare cases they may cause anaphylaxis — a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn't approved cardamom to treat any condition, so currently, there's no recommended dosage. However, between 1.5 and 6 grams (g) per day was the range of supplementation used in the human studies mentioned above.
If you'd like to add more cardamom to your cooking, Elmardi says you can add the pods to any kind of tea or use it when making soups. Some other great ways to use cardamom include:
- Sprinkling ground cardamom into your oatmeal.
- Adding ground cardamom as a spice to quick breads, muffins, and other baked goods.
- Sprinkling ground cardamom into your coffee grounds, or infusing coffee or chai with cardamom pods.
- Add smashed cardamom pods to rice or lentils as they cook.
- Use spice blends featuring cardamom, like garam masala, in your savory dishes.
Cardamom is a spice with a variety of culinary uses. Not only can it spice up your favorite dishes, it may also provide a number of health benefits.
Experts continue to study cardamom's potential benefits, but in the meantime this spice can make a great addition to your cupboard.
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