It often happens not to give it much importance, preferring more colorful vegetables, such as salads, carrots or tomatoes. Yet fennel should never be missing, both as an ingredient in tasty salads, as a fragrant side dish or as a delicious anti-inflammatory aperitif. In fact, fennel is characterized by digestive, diuretic, antioxidant and anticancer properties, proven by scientific studies. So let's try to deepen the characteristics of fennel, we will try to understand which are the best cooking preparations to maximize its beneficial action and finally we will also see some curiosities about its essential oil.
Fennel is made up of 93% water, it provides a reduced quantity of proteins, fats and mineral salts, especially calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium. Fennel is also a source of antioxidants, such as flavonoids and phenolic compounds that give fennel hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging properties, useful for counteracting free radical damage and cell degeneration, as well as even supporting memory (Badgujar et al, Biomed Res Int, 2014).
Fennel and digestion
Fennel is a concentrate of active ingredients, among which anethole, anisone, felandrene and estragole stand out, which give this vegetable important digestive and appetite-stimulating properties (Aufiero, the nutritional and therapeutic role of foods - Badgujar et al, Biomed Res Int, 2014). Fennel stimulates digestion in the case of large and complex meals, which contain meat and fish. Not only that, fennel also helps to counteract fermentation, especially when it is served cooked. Finally, fennel is soothing and refreshing for the stomach mucosa that protects against inflammation, helping to prevent gastritis and the formation of ulcers (Badgujar et al, Biomed Res Int, 2014).
Fennel and water retention
Fennel is a valid ally against water retention thanks to its diuretic action, which it performs above all when served raw (Aufiero, the nutritional and therapeutic role of foods). Fennel thus fights stagnation and helps to eliminate toxins, purifying the body.
Fennel and food combinations
The salad prepared with slices of raw fennel, slices of orange and olives and dressed with a little whole sea salt and extra virgin olive oil is excellent. In this way, the preparation ensures the unsaturated fatty acids of the olives, anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective, shows a soothing and diuretic action thanks to the fennel and guarantees an important supply of vitamin C thanks to the orange. The recipe, therefore, is indicated in case of convalescence from debilitating diseases, but it is also useful for athletes and for those who have to lose weight (Aufiero, the nutritional and therapeutic role of foods). Instead, cooked fennel is an aid in the case of intestinal bloating, gastritis but also insomnia and during breastfeeding, given its galactagogue properties, that is, capable of promoting the production of milk. Cut a fennel into large slices and blanch it in water for a few minutes. Arrange the slices of cooked fennel on a baking sheet, add extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake at 170° for 15 minutes (Aufiero, the nutritional and therapeutic role of food).
Fat burning essential oil
But fennel is not only a beneficial vegetable to eat, but also to… smell! In fact, very recent studies have observed that inhaling fennel essential oil helps reduce body fat, especially visceral fat, which is also the most dangerous since it stimulates the release of hormones and pro-inflammatory substances. In fact, the essential oil of fennel, thanks to its active ingredients such as anethole and estragole, improves the metabolism of fats. Not only that, fennel essential oil is also cardioprotective, since it helps to keep blood pressure under control and improves insulin sensitivity (Hong et al, Nutrients, 2022). Also noteworthy is the fact that fennel essential oil has bronchodilator and expectorant properties, therefore useful for improving breathing (Badgujar et al, Biomed Res Int, 2014).
Fennel is a generally safe food and, as we have seen, beneficial. However, it has a drawback. In fact, although it contains a reduced quantity of sugars, these are particularly bioavailable. Therefore, fennel is to be consumed in moderation in those who must keep blood sugar under control (Aufiero, the nutritional and therapeutic role of foods).