Amazing Health Benefits Of Nutmeg
Like many other spices, nutmeg is one of those fragrant additions to food that brings a little kick of warmth and curious complexity that, once tasted in a dish, can’t be done without. Used in Chinese and East Indian cultures as a curative and aphrodisiac, as well as flavor enhancer, it was once a rare, costly spice prized by Byzantine traders who obtained it from Arabia.
The earliest references to the nutmeg tree pinpoint its origin to Moluccas Island, aka Spice Islands, in the Indonesian rainforest. Nutmeg is actually a fruit with a single seed (which makes it a drupe), similar in size to an apricot. It’s intertwined, one might say, with a softer substance: mace, another valuable spice harvested at the same time. As the seed matures, the nutmeg kernel splits from the mace in a sort of lace pattern.
After being harvested, processing these spices is a rather complicated procedure. The outside of the fruit is removed to expose the kernel. Then, the mace is carefully peeled off, flattened into strips, and dried before being sold either whole or finely ground. The kernels are generally sun- or machine-dried for several days or even weeks, until the nutmeg rattles inside the shell, which is broken, extracted, and soaked in limewater. Then, it’s ground into the spice we buy at the store.
Whole nutmegs, sometimes available in supermarkets, can be ground at home using a pepper mill, processor, or mortar and pestle. Ground spices release flavor quicker than in whole form, and freshly ground nutmeg is one spice that imparts a pungency that fades over several months.
Nutmeg is used for sweet dishes in India and savory ones in the Middle East. In Europe, potatoes, eggs, and meats are spiced with nutmeg, as well as soups, sauces, and baked goods.
Health Benefits of Nutmeg
One ounce or 28 grams of ground nutmeg is a lot – just a teaspoon can very effectively flavor an entire batch of oatmeal raisin cookies. But this amount demonstrates its nutritive benefits. Manganese is the clear winner as far as content, at 41% of the daily recommended value. It delivers an amazing array of advantages within the body, from blood clotting and regulating the blood sugar, to metabolizing carbohydrates and absorbing calcium. It also helps form tissues, bones, and sex hormones.
Copper and magnesium make very respectable contributions with 13% and 14%, respectively. Essential to human health, copper must be synthesized by the body and absorbed on a regular basis since it can’t be manufactured by itself. Manganese and copper both contain superoxide dismutase, an antioxidant enzyme that repairs cells and reduces the “oxidative stress” you hear about, which is essentially the same as the beginning of the “rusting” process inside the cells.
Both nutmeg and mace contain antioxidants and disease-preventing phytochemicals. Some of these are completely unique. Trimyristin and other essential volatile oils provide the fragrance and flavor; myristicin and elemicin, ironically, contain properties that soothe, as well as stimulate areas of your brain, and eugenol is used topically for relieving joint, muscular and toothache pain. Other oils are safrole, pinene, camphene, dipentene, cineole, linalool, sabinene, safrole, terpeniol. Released from these are compounds that are antifungal, antidepressant and gas-inhibitive for more comfortable digestion.
Other health benefits of nutmeg come from potassium (for heart rate and blood pressure control), zinc, and iron (for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidases enzymes) as well as B-vitamins, vitamins A and C, folate, riboflavin, niacin, and the flavonoid antioxidants betacarotene and cryptoxanthin, which are essential for optimum health.
Interestingly, it’s probably the active agent myristicin in nutmeg and mace that imbue stimulating effects, which, in large amounts, can be narcotic if not downright hallucinogenic. This compound is also present in parsley, dill, and star anise, but at a much lesser degree. Source