Did you know that they helped ancient Greek warriors be strong?
Known as marathosporo in Greek, fennel seeds were named after the city of Marathon, Greece. Marathon is a city that’s rich in history – the Battle of Marathon was part of the first Persian invasion of ancient Greece in 490 BC. This battle was fought in Marathon’s fennel fields and eventually ended in a Greek victory!
Pheidippes ran 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greeks’ victory. This historic battle inspired the popularity of fennel seeds and the development of the modern marathon.
A symbol of Greek heritage and strength, fennel seeds boast many benefits that the ancient Greeks used to their advantage for major battles like the Battle of Marathon.
Read on to learn why you should add more Greek fennel seeds to your cooking.
1. They may curb your appetite
If you’re looking for a natural way to stay full after meals and lose weight, look no further than fennel seeds. In a small study of overweight women, drinking fennel tea helped with appetite control. 
Additionally, fennel seeds are high in fiber to boost your digestion and help you stay full.
2. Greek fennel seeds are nutritious
They’re rich in essential vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and selenium.
3. Fennel may help relieve infants’ colic symptoms
A randomized controlled trial showed that fennel oil may help reduce crying in babies with colic compared to the placebo. 
4. They contain antioxidants that may fight cancer
Greek fennel seeds contain a powerful phytonutrient called anethole. In a lab study, anethole helped prevent the spread of breast cancer cells. 
5. Fennel seeds may help you boost your brain health
In one study on mice, fennel seed extract helped reduce the effect of aging-induced memory deficits.  Given their promising brain health effects, fennel seeds are being evaluated as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
6. They may help fight off bacteria, viruses, and illnesses
Immunity is more important now than ever given the recent pandemic! Some studies show that fennel extract may help fight off ailments by stopping the growth of bacteria and yeast. 
7. Greek fennel seeds make everything smell good
If you’ve ever picked up fennel seeds in your hand, you’ll know that they have unique anise and licorice fragrance. Cooking with fennel seeds or eating foods that contain them will leave your breath and home smelling sweet and pleasant!
8. They’re compatible with both sweet and savory dishes
There are many ways to cook with fennel seeds. Your best bet is to keep fresh fennel seeds in your pantry at all times since they complement so many foods!
Try adding fennel seeds to various dishes as the ancient Greeks did:
- Fish and seafood, including soups and stock
- Any pork dishes, such as stews and casseroles
- Tomato and cucumber salad
- Homemade bread or biscuits
- Pasta, lasagna, and pizza
- Cakes and sweet treats like baklava
The bottom line
Named after the city of Marathon in Greece, fennel seeds (marathosporo) are nutritious, delicious, and versatile. If you’re looking for a healthy Greek staple to add to your cooking, try some fennel seeds today!
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) Tea Drinking Suppresses Subjective Short-term Appetite in Overweight Women (nih.gov)
- Alexandrovich I, Rakovitskaya O, Kolmo E, Sidorova T, Shushunov S. The effect of fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) seed oil emulsion in infantile colic: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 Jul-Aug;9(4):58-61. PMID: 12868253.
- Chen CH, deGraffenried LA. Anethole suppressed cell survival and induced apoptosis in human breast cancer cells independent of estrogen receptor status. Phytomedicine. 2012 Jun 15;19(8-9):763-7. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2012.02.017. Epub 2012 Mar 30. PMID: 22464689.
- Joshi H, Parle M. Cholinergic basis of memory-strengthening effect of Foeniculum vulgare Linn. J Med Food. 2006 Fall;9(3):413-7. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2006.9.413. PMID: 17004908.
- Salami M, Rahimmalek M, Ehtemam MH. Inhibitory effect of different fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) samples and their phenolic compounds on formation of advanced glycation products and comparison of antimicrobial and antioxidant activities. Food Chem. 2016 Dec 15;213:196-205. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.06.070. Epub 2016 Jun 22. PMID: 27451172.
About the author
Chrissy Arsenault, MBA, RDN, LD, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and licensed dietitian based in Indianapolis. She obtained her bachelor of science in nutritional science at Cornell University and her MBA at Indiana University Kelley School of Business. She is the founder and CEO of a nutrition communications firm called Pink Pamplemousse LLC, where she creates engaging nutrition and wellness content for clients. She has also coached clients on various health conditions including heart disease, obesity, digestive issues and diabetes over the last seven years. Visit Chrissy’s website.
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