Cooking With Cumin: What You Should Know About This Versatile Spice

Cumin’s potential benefits and how to use it
A close-up of a wooden spoon with a big pile of the brown spice cumin

Looking to kick your flavor profiles up a notch? Cumin is a delicious addition to any recipe and offers some health perks, too.

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Cumin comes from the Cuminum cyminum plant, a member of the parsley family. It’s most often used in ground form, but you can also buy it in whole seeds.

Registered dietitian Nicole Hopsecger, RD, gives the lowdown on what this commonly used spice has to offer.

The benefits of cumin

Many website tout health benefits of cumin, including weight loss and blood sugar control. But Hopsecger urges caution when it comes to these claims.

“There’s not enough research to support them,” she says. “In the few studies that do, there are likely other factors going on in addition to the cumin supplement, such as increased motivation or lifestyle changes.”

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For example, one study showed an improvement in cholesterol levels after participants took 3 grams of cumin powder per day for three months. “But the sample size of that study was small, so more research is needed,” Hopsecger says.

One thing you can bank on is cumin’s antioxidant properties, which help protect your cells. “A diet high in antioxidants can help reduce the risk of heart disease and some other chronic diseases,” adds Hopsecger. “Of course, that goes hand-in-hand with making sure your diet is also high in other antioxidant sources, including fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes.”

To reap benefits from cumin in your kitchen, Hopsecger recommends using ground cumin instead of cumin seeds.

“Grinding up the seed increases our ability to absorb it,” she says. “You also get more benefits from the vitamins and minerals it contains, such as B vitamins, vitamin E, iron and magnesium.”

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Store any unused cumin in a dark, cool location.

How much cumin should you consume?

Any amount of cumin spice in recipes is generally considered safe. But if you opt for a cumin supplement, Hopsecger recommends following the instructions on the label. “Choose a cumin supplement that is USP (United States Pharmacopeia) verified,” she adds. “And since cumin supplements may interact with certain medications, talk to your doctor first.”

How to cook with cumin

Cumin has a warm, earthy flavor. It’s a recipe staple in cuisine from:

  • Latin America.
  • Middle East.
  • North Africa.
  • India.

“It’s great to include that cooking style in your repertoire,” says Hopsecger. “Try mixing cumin into a homemade, sodium-free taco seasoning to use on Mexican dishes. You could even put it in guacamole, curry dishes or bean chili.”

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