Rich in mineral salts, vitamins and essential oils, cardamom is a spice with strong antiseptic and digestive properties. Also excellent in the kitchen, it is perfect for obtaining tasty and healthy herbal teas. Learn about the uses and benefits of cardamom.
Cardamom is a very fragrant spice obtained from a tropical plant native to India and Nepal, belonging to the Zingiberaceae family. The cardamom plant grows in regions with a hot and humid climate and can reach up to 20 meters in height. The most common variety is the one with the scientific name Elettaria cardamomum.
There are actually 3 different varieties. Green cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), is the most valuable variety with a more intense flavor, coming from India. Then we have the black cardamom from Siam (Amomum compactum), widespread mainly in Myanmar and Thailand, which is the most bitter variety. Finally, the Ceylon cardamom (Elettaria repens), from Sri Lanka. There is also white cardamom, which is basically bleached green cardamom.
The plant has fruits that are green or brown capsules inside which there are cardamom seeds, of dark color. The seeds can be used whole or ground but the advice is to buy the capsules whole as the seeds easily disperse their aroma. Let’s see what are the nutritional values and benefits of this spice.
Cardamom: calories and nutritional values
100 grams of cardamom provide more than 300 kilocalories (311 calories to be exact), but this is not a problem because a small amount of cardamom seeds is needed to flavor dishes and to prepare infusions. They are rich in carbohydrates, proteins and, most importantly, fiber.
Nutritional values per 100g of cardamom:
- Kilocalories: 311
- Waterfall: 8.28 gr
- Carbohydrates: 68.47 gr
- Proteins: 10.76 gr
- Fat: 6.7 gr
- Fibers: 28 g
- Soccer: 383 mg
- Iron: 13.97 mg
- Magnesium: 229 mg
- Phosphorus: 178 mg
- Potassium: 1119 mg
- Sodium: 18 mg
- Zinc: 7.47 mg
- Manganese: 28 mg
- Vitamin C or ascorbic acid: 21 mg
- Thiamine or vitamin B1: 0.198 mg
- Riboflavin or vitamin B2: 0.182 mg
- Niacin or vitamin B3: 1.102 mg
- Pyridoxine or vitamin B6: 0.23 mg
- Phytosterols: 46 mg
Cardamom: nutritional properties
Cardamom, being a seed, is a concentrate of nutrients. It is especially rich in calcium, manganese, potassium and phytosterols. Let’s see the characteristics of each of these components.
- Calcium: this mineral is present in abundance in cardamom, about 380 mg per 100 grams. Calcium is part of the bone structure, so its contribution is essential to support the osteoarticular system and also to prevent growth defects. It intervenes in the mechanisms of muscle contraction and is also important for cellular communication;
- Potassium: The potassium content in cardamom seeds is truly astounding, as 1119 mg of potassium are present in 100 grams of these seeds. It is an important mineral for maintaining a balance in blood pressure and heart rate rhythms. It counteracts water retention and intervenes in the mechanisms of acid-base balance and muscle contraction;
- Manganese: Manganese is an essential mineral for keeping us healthy. It is present in our body in small quantities, and cardamom contains 28 mg per 100 grams. It is important for boosting the immune system and for supporting brain function and bone growth. Furthermore, it is also involved in antioxidant functions, being part of an enzyme that decreases oxidative stress;
- Phytosterols: Phytosterols are plant-based sterols found mainly in legumes, vegetable oils and dried fruit. They play a vital role in reducing bad cholesterol levels and are therefore beneficial in preventing cardiovascular disease. In addition, phytosterols also boast anticancer properties.
Finally, cineole is also present in cardamom seeds, a compound with antibacterial properties and responsible for some of the beneficial properties of this spice, which we will see below.
Cardamom: health benefits
There are numerous properties of cardamom and the benefits that derive from its consumption. The best known effects are certainly the digestive and carminative ones, however, cardamom has excellent antibacterial properties and has been found to be useful for countering high cholesterol, but not only. Let’s see all the virtues of this spice.
✓ It has a gastro-protective effect
Cardamom has a protective effect on the stomach walls. This is what emerges from a study, in which some cardamom extracts significantly reduced lesions and ulcers induced by the administration of aspirin and ethanol in rats. The use of this spice, therefore, could be beneficial to those suffering from gastric disorders.
✓ Helps digestion and counteracts swelling
Cardamom is a spice that stimulates digestion, therefore ideal to add both to meals, but also in the form of an infusion to drink after meals. Furthermore, it has a carminative action, that is, it helps to reduce the formation of intestinal gas and therefore to counteract the swollen belly. To enhance this action, an infusion could be prepared together with fennel and cumin seeds.
✓ Cardamom reduces cholesterol levels
A study revealed the potential of cardamom essential oil and powder in restoring the alteration of lipid homeostasis in conditions of hypercholesterolemia. In fact, the administration of cardamom oil or powder in rats with induced hypercholesterolemia led to a significant reduction in the levels of total cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Cardamom would therefore have a cardio-protective effect.
✓ Has antiseptic properties
In cardamom we find cineole, a compound that characterizes the essential oil and which has antiseptic properties. For this reason, the use of cardamom and its essential oil can be useful for diseases of the respiratory tract, making it a good ally in case of cough and cold. Furthermore, its powerful antibacterial action could be useful in preventing dental caries. For the same reason, chewing cardamom helps fight bad breath. In this regard, it is necessary to chew the whole berry, with the seeds still inside, to the extent of 4 or 5 per day.
✓ Lower your blood sugar
In a study, a significant decrease in both fasting and post-meal glucose levels was observed in rats. More studies are needed to show the same effect in men, however it can help lower blood sugar when taken along with a balanced, high-fiber, low-sugar diet.
✓ Reduces blood pressure
In a study carried out on hypertensive individuals, the administration of 3 grams of cardamom powder for 12 weeks led to an effective and significant reduction in blood pressure, an increase in antioxidant levels in the body and an improvement in fibrinolysis processes. So the benefits of cardamom also extend to hypertensive subjects.
✓ Potential preventive effect in oncological diseases
In a study, taking cardamom was shown to prevent tumor induced incidence and multiplicity in mice by administering a carcinogen such as pyrene. In humans, this effect has yet to be demonstrated. However, the premises are good, so even cardamom could help in the prevention phase, associated with a diet rich in vegetables and legumes and a healthy lifestyle.
What does cardamom taste like?
The flavor of cardamom is very distinctive, difficult to confuse with other spices. It is possible to describe the taste of cardamom as slightly spicy, fresh and very aromatic, which can also remind you a little of the taste of lemon and lends itself well to sweet and savory recipes. Black cardamom, on the other hand, has a hint of “smoky” flavor and is more suitable for savory recipes.
Cardamom: some usage tips
Cardamom can be found in supermarkets or specialty food stores, including online. Cardamom is used a lot in Indian cuisine to flavor rice and vegetables, but also in Arabian cuisine for the preparation of precious coffee where cardamom is king with 80% participation compared to 20% of coffee.
One of the best known preparations in which it falls is certainly the famous Indian tea, masala chai, which also includes black pepper, cinnamon, black tea and cloves.
Among the many cardamom-based recipes we also want to mention the possibility of making the liqueur simply using the berries of the fruit and adding alcohol, sugar and water. The doses are these: 1 liter of alcohol, 300 g of sugar, 500 ml of water and 30 g of cardamom berries. The mixture obtained by mixing crushed cardamom and alcohol must rest for a month. After that it must be filtered and the other ingredients can be added. It is excellent served as a digestive.
Furthermore, cardamom can be used (by extracting and grinding the seeds contained inside the casing) to flavor soups and soups, but also vegetable meatballs.
To benefit from its digestive and carminative effect, a decoction can be prepared by boiling a teaspoon of cardamom seeds (opened) in 200 ml of water for 5 minutes. To enhance the digestive and deflating effect, you can also add a teaspoon of fennel seeds and / or a piece of ginger to the herbal tea, directly together with cardamom in boiling water.
Finally, with cardamom you can prepare simple infusions to breathe with a towel on the head to free the airways in case, for example, of a cold or sinusitis.
Cardamom: Contraindications and Potential Negative Effects
The intake of cardamom is usually safe, with no particular contraindications, except for those who are allergic to this spice. Gallstone sufferers should also avoid cardamom, as well as those taking antiplatelet drugs. Also not recommended in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Cardamom: prices and where to buy it
As we anticipated above, cardamom can be bought in supermarkets, ethnic shops, organic shops or online. Generally we find it as a pod, still closed, from which to extract the fragrant seeds inside them. However, it is not uncommon to find cardamom also in powder form, to be used as a seasoning for our recipes.
Essential oils or cardamom extracts, on the other hand, can be found in herbalists, pharmacies or specialized online stores. The prices of cardamom vary a lot according to the type of product, the seller and the packaging. On average, for a pack of 40-50 grams of pods you spend about 10 to 15 USD. As always, we recommend that you choose organic products. Finally, as regards the essential oil, you can also spend 20-25 USD for a 5 ml pack of a good product.