Nutmeg: what it is and benefits

Do you know what the benefits of nutmeg are ? The spice native to part of the Asian continent is used all over the world in the preparation of foods, both savory and sweet.

However, not everyone knows that consuming it also has many health benefits. This is because it has several phytochemical components, which have a positive action on the body, helping to treat and prevent various diseases.

In this article you will find out all about this little seed, which has a very characteristic flavor and aroma and which makes it loved all over the world.

So, keep reading to see its main benefits for health, what is the care with consumption and still some delicious recipes.

What is Nutmeg?

Nutmeg, contrary to what the name may indicate, is not a nut, but a seed , taken from the interior of the fruit of the nutmeg.

Also known as Myristica fragans , from the Myristicaceae family , the nutmeg is a tree native to tropical countries in Asia. And it can reach 20 meters in height.

Both the leaves and the flowers of the tree are aromatic and small. Fruits are extracted from them, which have the appearance similar to a small pear and have an astringent taste and yellowish color.

Harvesting can be done throughout the year. However, it happens more frequently in the months of April and November. Inside them are the seeds.

With its brown exterior and light, soft interior, when fresh, nutmeg is used grated or pressed to remove the essential oil. In eastern countries, the spice is an essential part of traditional medicine and cuisine.

In the West, it began to be used only in the 12th century. Since then, it was taken by merchants and began to be cultivated in colonies in European countries that had a suitable climate for the growth of trees.

What is it for and what are the health benefits of nutmeg?

Nutmeg is present in traditional medicine in Southeast Asian countries and some regions in Europe. Mainly to stimulate digestion, to treat inflammatory problems and even as a natural pain reliever.

In addition, the spice is rich in several types of vitamins and minerals, which only contribute to it being always present in a healthy diet.

Among the benefits present in nutmeg, its properties can be highlighted:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Antimicrobial and antifungal
  • Aphrodisiac
  • Hepatoprotetora
  • Digestive system stimulant
  • Painkiller
  • Soothing and anxiolytic effect
  • Brain stimulant
  • Improves kidney health
  • Source of vitamins and minerals

See below for more about each of these benefits and how nutmeg works in the body.

Anti-inflammatory

Nutmeg has been used for centuries as a natural anti-inflammatory in many Southeast and East Asian countries.

Recent studies indicate that this makes perfect sense, as the spice is rich in phytochemicals that help reduce the proliferation of substances released by cells during inflammation.

The seed is also very effective in treating allergies , which are inflammatory processes. Thus helping to reduce symptoms and discomfort caused by inflammation. ( 1 )

Antioxidants

The spice is also rich in several antioxidant compounds. Among the main ones, it is possible to mention the phenolic compounds and the carotenes, also present in other vegetal components.

Together, these antioxidants work to protect the body from external damage and premature aging. This helps to prevent various types of illnesses, fights infections and also protects heart health .

When used in food, nutmeg has an antioxidant action and acts to increase their shelf life. Thus, preventing them from spoiling easily. ( 2 )

Antimicrobial and antifungal

Other factors that contribute to the longer lasting effect of foods with nutmeg use are the antimicrobial and antifungal actions.

That is, it has in its composition substances capable of inhibiting the proliferation of bacteria and fungi,  which also promote diseases in the human body.

For this reason, consumption can help to treat diseases caused by stress and cell oxidation or infections caused by external agents such as fungi and bacteria. ( 2 )

Nutritionist Caroline de Aquino Guerreiro points out that these properties are only used when the spice is consumed in small quantities. Mainly because at high dosages it has hallucinogenic effects.

Aphrodisiac

Another ancient use of nutmeg is as an aphrodisiac. Thus increasing sexual desire and even serving as a natural treatment for health problems related to decreased libido.

Even during the 18th century, the spice was very indicated for problems of sexual dysfunction in men . It can be consumed for this purpose, but in small quantities. ( 3 )

Hepatoprotetora

The essential oil extracted from nutmeg is rich in a substance called myristicin, which is responsible for its characteristic aroma.

According to Guerreiro, when consumed in large quantities, this substance is one of those responsible for the hallucinogenic effects of the spice and even for intoxication.

However, a study published in 2003 by Japanese researchers found that this same substance has a hepatoprotective factor.

That is, it helps protect the liver from damage caused by viruses, alcohol abuse, other chemicals, and even some autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, it can prevent the proliferation of cancer cells in the organ. ( 4 )

Digestive system stimulant

Nutritionist Caroline de Aquino Guerreiro informs that nutmeg has substances that act to protect and stimulate the functioning of the digestive tract.

In addition, traditional Asian medicine and some recent studies show that the spice can also help with gas problems, diarrhea and even appetite. ( 3 )

In this way, becoming a great natural condiment to be used on a daily basis. However, always remembering to use it sparingly.

Painkiller

Guerreiro also points out that there are several studies that show the effectiveness of nutmeg consumption for the relief of headaches and menstrual cramps .

In addition, because it has anti-inflammatory properties, the essential oil is used by traditional medicine in some countries to treat muscle and joint pain. When used to massage painful areas. ( 3 )

Soothing and anxiolytic effect

The spice also has a calming effect, which can help reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality when consumed correctly.

This happens, according to a study published in 2013, because it is composed of substances that increase serotonin levels. Hormone that helps with relaxation and a feeling of well-being.

Other hormones responsible for the feeling of well-being have also been shown to increase with the consumption of nutmeg. Making it have a positive effect on anxiety and mild depression. ( 1 , 3 )

Brain stimulant

While helping you to relax, nutmeg can also help stimulate your brain. When consumed in a moderate way, the spice decreases stress levels, increases serotonin and helps with concentration.

These benefits are due both to the fact that it is a natural stimulant for circulation, and to the substances found in its essential oil. Thus, it can help to keep the brain healthy in a natural way. ( 1 , 3 )

Improves kidney health

Traditionally, nutmeg is indicated to treat problems related to the kidneys. This includes inflammation and diseases related to circulatory problems.

The good news is that science has already proven these benefits and the spice has proven to be efficient, as it helps in removing toxins from the body , work done by the kidneys.

Associated with improved circulation and its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects, consuming nutmeg in correct doses can act to prevent problems affecting the urinary tract. ( 3 )

Source of vitamins and minerals

Last but not least, nutmeg is rich in many types of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fiber. Which makes it a great addition for anyone looking for healthy eating.

Among the vitamins found in the spice are A, C and E. In addition to the minerals sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and manganese in small amounts.

All this with low calories. Only about 37 calories per tablespoon . As it should not be consumed in excess, this makes you ingest even fewer calories. ( 5 )

Ways of Consumption of Nutmeg

Nutmeg is used in many ways, as a condiment , by the food industry, even as an ingredient in the cosmetic industries. All this due, mainly, to its characteristic aroma, which makes this seed appreciated in perfumery.

Nutritionist Caroline Guerreiro also highlights the pharmaceutical use of the seed, aimed at the production of essential oils and extracts that are used in herbal medicine. Besides being used in the form of tea.

However, the most common way to consume the spice is in its natural, grated state. However, it is necessary to keep the seed whole, which helps to preserve the flavor and aroma for longer.

In this way it can be used as a seasoning for meats, soups and sauces. In addition, it also goes well in cakes and sweets , which need more delicate and striking aromas and flavors.

Tasty recipes with the spice

You saw that nutmeg can be used in several ways, being most common in Brazil in the form of a spice. However, the taste and smell can be deceiving and make many people think that it doesn’t go with many foods.

This is not true and Remédio Homeiro has set aside some tasty and healthy recipes with nutmeg for you to reproduce at home. Check out!

Mashed potatoes with nutmeg

Mashed potatoes are already one of the favorite foods of Brazilians and it is possible to give an even more special touch to the dish by adding a pinch of nutmeg. Look!

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 200 ml of whole milk
  • Half a coffee spoon of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt to taste.

Preparation method:

Peel and cook the potatoes over medium heat, with salt, until very soft. Soon after, squeeze the potatoes and heat again, with the butter until everything is mixed.

Finally, just add the milk and nutmeg and mix well until you have a puree with a creamy consistency. You can also add a dash of black pepper to give it an even more special flavor.

Gingerbread

As already mentioned, it is not only in savory dishes that nutmeg can be used. This recipe is also used to complement a delicious honey bread that will delight everyone in the family.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of wheat flour
  • Half a tablespoon of baking soda
  • half a cup of white sugar
  • half a cup of brown sugar
  • Half a (coffee) spoon of cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • Half a (coffee) spoon of nutmeg
  • A quarter cup of vegetable oil
  • half cup of honey
  • half cup of milk
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 puff of salt.

Preparation method:

In a large container, place all the dry ingredients, such as flour, baking soda, spices and salt, and mix well. In another container, mix the wet ingredients and join the two mixtures until it becomes a smooth dough.

Place the dough in a square shape and bake at 180º C for about 30 minutes. Afterwards, just remove from heat, wait for it to cool and cover with melted chocolate.

Pumpkin soup with nutmeg

For colder days, there’s nothing better than soup. This recipe is made with pumpkin and besides being easy it’s super tasty.

Ingredients:

  • 300 grams of pumpkin
  • half chopped onion
  • Half a (coffee) spoon of nutmeg
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 glasses of water or vegetable broth
  • Olive oil.

Preparation method:

The first step is to peel the pumpkin and cut it into small cubes. Then, sauté the onion in olive oil until golden and then add the pumpkin cubes.

Add water, salt and spices and cook until the pumpkin is very soft. Finally, remove from heat and just beat in a blender or mixer until you have a smooth cream.

Where to buy?

It is currently possible to find nutmeg in any supermarket and specialty stores in spices. The most recommended is to buy the whole walnut, to be grated only at the time of use, avoiding loss of flavor.

Essential oil, on the other hand, can be found in stores specializing in oils or herbal products. As well as the extract, which is based on alcohol and has medicinal use.

Nutmeg lose weight?

Nutmeg can help those who want to lose weight, but as a helper . Especially for its effects on the urinary tract and on the circulatory system, which facilitate the removal of toxins and other excesses from the body.

In addition, its anti-inflammatory action can also reduce swelling, which can be caused by inflammation in people who are overweight.

Another important point is that nutmeg brings a very characteristic flavor to food. Thus helping to increase the feeling of satiety .

Finally, it also helps in the digestion process, improving the entire functioning of the digestive tract. In this way, you can avoid the bloated feeling that makes people feel overweight.

Contraindications and care

Caroline Guerreiro warns of some precautions that must be taken when consuming nutmeg. This is because, as already mentioned, myristicin, one of the main components of the spice, has hallucinogenic effects when acting together with another substance called elemicin.

However, it is not necessary to abolish the use of it in food because this only happens when consumed in large quantities.

The amount needed for this may vary from person to person depending on sensitivity. However, it is not recommended to consume more than 5 grams of the spice at one time.

Among the negative effects of nutmeg, Guerreiro highlights the abortive and intoxicating ones . Furthermore, when it reaches the nervous system, it can also cause dysphoric and euphoric effects, which vary according to the amount consumed.

Therefore, she warns that any consumption for medicinal purposes must be closely monitored by a doctor, as this avoids more serious problems.

Ellie Lauderdale

My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.

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