With its lemony acid taste and vibrant red hue, sumac is a star ingredient that deserves a place in every spice closet. In addition to adding a zipper of flavor and color to the dishes, this powerful spice has also been associated with a broad set of benefits. Thanks to its rich content of polyphenols and flavonoids, adding a dash of sumac to your diet can help reduce cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar and even reduce bone loss. So what is sumac, and why should I start stocking up on this potent spice? Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways that sumac can benefit your health.
What is the Sumac?
Sumac refers to any flowering plant that belongs to the genus Rhus or the Anacardiaceae family , which often consist of small shrubs and sumac trees that produce bright red fruits known as drupes. These plants are grown throughout the world, but they are especially common in East Asia, Africa and North America. Some other popular variations include deer horn sumac, African sumac, smooth sumac and fragrant sumac. The sumac spice, however, is derived from dried and ground berries of a specific type of plant . This bright and tasty spice is often added to other spice blends, including za’atar. It is also a common ingredient in traditional Middle Eastern cuisine and is used in everything from meat dishes to salads. So what does this rich spice taste like? – It has a unique flavor typically described as acid and slightly fruity, a bit like lemon. But in addition to providing a distinctive flavor to the dishes, it also has a long list of impressive benefits. In fact, recent research suggests that this spice could have a powerful effect on blood sugar control, heart health, disease prevention and even pain relief.
Benefits of Sumac:
Among the main benefits of this interesting spice we can find the following:
1. Regulates Blood Sugar:
High blood sugar can have a real cost in many aspects of health. In the short term, it can cause symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, frequent urination and increased thirst. Over time, maintaining high blood sugar levels has even more serious consequences, including nerve damage, kidney problems and impaired wound healing. Some research shows that sumac can help maintain normal blood sugar levels. In addition, it has the power to help with regard to the prevention of insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone responsible for transporting sugar from the bloodstream to the tissues, so when blood sugar levels are consistently high, insulin levels remain high. This causes the body to become resistant to its effects, which results in impaired blood sugar control. It can be effective in reducing insulin levels to prevent insulin resistance and stabilize blood sugar.
2. Reduce and Regulate Cholesterol:
One of the main risks of heart disease is cholesterol. Cholesterol can build up inside the arteries, which causes them to narrow and harden, putting pressure on the heart muscle and making it difficult for blood to pass. Although research is currently mainly limited to animal models, studies suggest that sumac benefits heart health by lowering cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart disease.
“According to one study, sumac was able to reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels in rats fed a high cholesterol diet”.
Another study had similar findings, showing that the administration of a combination of sumac and ginger to chickens caused a significant decrease in cholesterol levels.
3. High in Antioxidants that Fight Diseases:
Antioxidants are powerful compounds that help fight free radicals to prevent cell damage and protect against chronic diseases. Some research even suggests that antioxidants may reduce the risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Sumac is a concentrated source of antioxidants that can help neutralize free radicals and keep your body healthy. In fact, sumac is effective in reducing the complications of diabetes in rats, largely thanks to its antioxidant content.
4. It can Reduce Bone Loss:
Osteoporosis is a common condition characterized by weak and fragile bones caused by bone loss and an increased risk of fracture. The risk of osteoporosis steadily increases with age, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that almost 25 percent of women over 65 have osteoporosis in the femur, neck and lumbar spine. Although research is still very limited on the potential effects of sumac on bone health, one study found some promising results. It was proved that administration of sumac extract to rats disrupted the balance of several specific proteins involved in bone metabolism, resulting in a decrease in bone loss.
5. Relieves Muscle Pain:
If you suffer from chronic muscle aches and pain, you can change your spice cabinet to help you. In fact, one study showed that sumac juice, derived from the same plant as sumac, was able to help reduce muscle pain during aerobic exercise in healthy adults. Because of its antioxidant-rich content, it can also help reduce inflammation to provide even greater pain relief. Inflammation not only contributes to the development of the disease and plays a central role in several autoimmune diseases, but studies also show that inflammation may also be involved in pain regulation.
Uses and Nutritional Value of Sumac:
Like other healing herbs and spices, the essence of this spice is low in calories but high in vitamin C and provides a burst of important antioxidants to help fight disease and optimize health. In particular, sumac is rich in polyphenols and flavonoids, such as gallic acid, methyl gallate, kaempferol and quercetin. It also contains tannins, which act as antioxidants and may even have anti-cancer properties. The medicinal properties of this spice have been recognized for thousands of years, particularly in regions such as South Asia and the Middle East, where sumac was commonly grown. In holistic medicine, it has been used to treat a variety of ailments, ranging from asthma to diarrhea and colds. The fruit is also sometimes used as a natural diuretic to help promote proper elimination and detoxification.
Where to Find Suma?
It can usually be found in the spice section of many grocery stores and is also common in specialized markets in the Middle East. If you have problems, you can also find it online, sometimes at an even lower price. If you can get some berries of this spice, you can also try to do it at home. There are many online tutorials on how to make sumac, but it usually involves simply drying and grinding berries in a spice and then enjoying your favorite recipes. So how do you start adding this spice to your diet to reap all the delicious benefits it has to offer? This versatile spice can be used in everything from dressings to marinades. It is a basic ingredient in Fattoush salad and also goes well with grilled meat and fish. You can also add a pinch of sumac over cooked vegetables or side dishes to give it a little more color and flavor.
Keep in mind that the essence of sumac is different from poison sumac, a plant that is closely related to poison ivy. Poisonous sumac contains a compound called urushiol, which can irritate the skin and cause serious side effects that can even be fatal. In turn, the sumac spice, on the other hand, belongs to a different genus of plants and can be safely consumed by most people. The adverse side effects of consuming sumac spices are very rare but possible. It also belongs to the same family of plants as cashews and mango, so you may want to check with your doctor before trying the sumac if you have a food allergy to any of these ingredients. If you experience any negative symptoms such as itching, swelling or hives after eating sumac, stop using it and talk to a trusted healthcare professional. If you take any medication to help reduce blood sugar or cholesterol levels, be sure to keep your intake in moderation and consider talking to your doctor. Because sumac has been shown to reduce blood sugar and lower cholesterol, it can interact with these medications.