Reactive oxygen species, also known as free radicals, are produced as part of the natural metabolic processes. However overproduction or under-removal of these free radicals can lead to oxidation, which is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent, resulting in oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is thought to be involved in a number of disorders including atherosclerosis, neural degenerative disease, inflammation, cancer and aging. Antioxidants are molecules capable of inhibiting the process of oxidation by moping up any excess free radicals.
But fear not; there is good news. A recent study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, reported that seeds from bitter cumin herb (Centratherum anthelminticum (L.) Kuntze), a member of the daisy family, are a rich source of phenolic antioxidants with powerful free radical scavenging ability. The authors, led by Dr. K. Akhilender Naidu from the department of biochemistry and nutrition, at the Central Food Technological Research Institute, India, said “In biological tests bitter cumin inhibited the oxidation of liposomes (used as a model for cell membrane oxidation) and offered complete protection against DNA damage.”
Why should we care? It seems that the use of synthetic antioxidants in foods began in the late 1940’s when BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole, a phenolic compounds that is often added to foods to preserve fats) was found to be an effective antioxidant in fatty foods and toxicological studies proved it safe for food use. However, serious concerns over the side effects of these synthetic antioxidants later developed resulting in a general desire to replace the synthetic food additives with natural antioxidants.
Enter bitter cumin. Seems there’s more than just one reason- great taste- to consume as much of this herb as possible.
So, in case you need a- or another- recipe for using cumin, here’s one of my favorites.
Andean quinoa and corn salad
1 c raw quinoa
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp paprika
2 c water
1 tsp salt
2 c fresh (cooked) or frozen (thawed) corn kernels
2 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely pressed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 colored bell peppers, seeded and minced
2 fresh chilies, stemmed, seeded and minced
2 Tbs minced fresh cilantro, more to taste
1 large tomato, chopped
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
¼ c fresh lemon juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
1. Rinse the quinoa under cold running water. Heat oil in a large saucepan, add the paprika, and stir constantly for about 1 minute. Add the quinoa, water and salt, cover, and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil and sauté the onions, garlic, cumin, and coriander until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the bell peppers, chile, and cilantro and sauté for another 3-5 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, the sautéed vegetables and chill for 15 minutes. Stir in the corn, tomatoes, parsley, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Add more chopped cilantro, if desired and serve immediately or refrigerate until later.