As an accredited nutritionist developing wholesome and delicious recipes for a living, I know how important it is to maintain a well-balanced and nutrient-rich diet. There’s no better feeling in the world than helping others feel their absolute best by how they fuel their body, which is why I wanted to share with you a secret super food that’s always in my pantry — the humble little Black Seed!
What exactly is Black Seed?
Ask the majority of Australians and it is likely that most have never heard of this invaluable little health food, however its reputation on a global scale is strong. Black Seed is derived from the Nigella sativa plant, and has been used extensively as a natural health remedy by community groups around the world for thousands of years. In fact, the Black Seed has been cultivated since Ancient Egyptian times, when it was crushed and applied to the skin as a topical ointment and was also used as a condiment for cooking. However, unlike the Ancient Egyptian times, it is now backed by numerous clinical trials showing how it can positively impact your health and well-being. It’s not surprising that this little seed has stood the test of time.
Why should I take it? What are its positive effects?
Along with supporting general health and well-being by boosting immunity and allowing the body to ward off infections, Black Seed is rich in the active ingredient thymoquinone (TQ), which has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Amongst other benefits, antioxidants allow the body to manage excessive free radicals production, which can help to minimize the risks of developing conditions caused by free radicals including coronary heart disease and arthritis1. All self-professed hair care lovers will also be happy to hear that research suggests that due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, black seed oil may help in treating a few skin conditions, including: acne, eczema, general dry skin and psoriasis2. Whether applied topically or ingested orally, incorporating Black Seed into your lifestyle consistently can have powerful effects on improving skin health.
From a nutritional standpoint, another benefit you may experience when consistently incorporating Black Seed into your diet is weight loss. In one 8-week study 3, 90 women between the ages of 25–50 with obesity were given a low-calorie diet and either a placebo or a daily maximum total of 3 grams of Black Seed oil per day. By the end of the study, the group given the Black Seed Oil lost more weight and waist circumference than the placebo group. This same group also improved their triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which if left too high can raise your risk of diseases such as heart attacks and stroke.
How can I incorporate Black Seed into my day-to-day life?
Nowadays, you’ll find Black Seed marketed as a health food supplement, developed into oils (for ingestion and topical application) and also in capsule form. However, it can also be sprinkled on top of bread and dip, or even fully integrated within a recipe like a soup or stew. Black Seed has also been incorporated in everyday food products like manuka honey and flavor grinders, targeting those who simply want a touch of Black Seed without fully committing to its flavors. You’d also be surprised to find out that some common, day-to-day hair and beauty products, like shampoos and body lotions, also include Black Seed. To experience its beauty benefits, be on the lookout for any Black Seed ingredients next time you’re stocking the cosmetic cabinet or kitchen pantry!
Being a nutritionist and recipe developer, one of the easiest ways I’d recommend to incorporate Black Seed is to simply add it to the food you’re already making. I love trying new dishes, and I always focus on using different and exciting flavors to make all food fun and interesting. Black Seed is one of my favorite ingredients for this very reason, as it is so unique in that it has a delicious, robust taste that’s also slightly bitter and spicy. It can almost be likened to cumin seed, onion and oregano, but with a nuttier profile comparatively.
Since Black Seed is used all over the world in Indian, Middle Eastern and North African cuisines, it is also incredibly versatile and can be used in so many different types of recipes. I specifically like to add it to curries, stews, soups, breads, and even pastries and desserts. It adds an extra kick, and of course, has the nutritional benefits to boot. Don’t be afraid to give it a go — you’ll be so surprised by the punch of flavor it brings, as well as the mighty health benefits you’ll get to experience for yourself.
1 Better Health Channel, 2022
3 National Library of Medicine — Hafiz Moeen-ud-Din, S. Murad, Ajaz Fatima, 2016
Meet Your Contributor — Faye James
Faye James is an accredited nutritionist, Hab Shifa ambassador, member of Nutrition Council Australia, recipe developer and the author of cookbooks The 10:10 Diet and The Long Life Plan. A food, beauty and health journalist with over 20 years of experience, you can follow her on Instagram for Black Seed recipes and food inspiration — @fayecelinejames.