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Fenugreek  
         
 

Fenugreek Seeds

 
Fenugreek Seeds are aromatic, bitter, carminative, galactogouge, antibacterial and may be eaten raw or cooked. Bulk of the seed is dietary fiber (50%) and protein (30%) both of which have no taste or flavor. Bitterness is mainly due to the oil, steroidal saponins and alkaloids. For 100 g of mature seeds, there is 30 g protein, 30 g (gel-forming) soluble fiber (15% galactomannan in the endosperm), 20 g insoluble fiber, 7.5 g lipids (6.3 g neutral- mainly triglycerides, 450 mg phospholipids- mainly phosphotidyl choline & phosphotidyl ethanolamine, 135 mg soluble lecithin), 2 g sapogenins (diosgenin, gitogenin, furastanol, yamogenin etc.), 160 mg Ca, 1.5 mg ionizable Fe (total Fe 14 mg), 370 mg phosphorous (phytin 157 mg), 19 mg Na, 530 mg K, 33 mg Cu, 100 mcg Cr, 1550 mg Mn, 160 mg Mg, 7 mg Zn, 16 mg S, 165 mg Cl, 50 mg choline, 380 mg trigonelline, traces of gentianine & carpaine, 43 mg ascorbic acid, 96 mcg carotene, 340 mcg thiamine, 290 mcg riboflavin, 1100 mcg nicotinic acid, 84 mcg folic acid of which 14.5 mcg is free folic acid and 120 U of heat-labile trypsin inhibitor.

The seeds of fenugreek contain many active biological chemicals may it a potent medicinal and nutraceutical supplement. Fenugreek seeds are bitter in taste and has a strong and quite peculiar odor, hence, used in a very small quantity as a spice. The Powdered fenugreek seed has a beautiful golden yellow color due to its coloring agent called coumadine. That is why fenugreek seeds were used for a yellow dye by ancient Indians and Egyptians.

Gel fiber present in Fenugreek seeds, reduces the rate of glucose absorption and may also delay gastric emptying, thereby preventing the rise in blood sugar levels following a meal. Several studies provide direct and indirect evidence that subjects become sensitive to insulin after adaptation to high fiber diets.In Fenugreek seeds, the gum (gel fiber) fraction consists of galactomannan which is made up of galactose and mannose units. The gum also resembles guar gum in structure and is very viscous (15 centipoise) when dissoved in water. The neutral detergent fiber is made up of indigestible carbohydrates such as cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. According to Ribes et al (1984), the defatted fraction of fenugreek seeds contains 50.2% fiber and consists of 17.7% gum, 22% hemicellulose, 8.3% cellulose and 2.2% lignin.
 

Proximate Composition (%) of Fenugreek Seeds

 
Component Whole Seeds Defatted Seeds

Moisture

9.0 9.0

Ash

3.0 3.5

Lipids

8.0 Negligible

Protein

26.0 28.3

Starch

6.0 6.5

Total Fiber

48.0 51.7

Gum

20.0 19.2

Neutral Detergent Fiber

28.0 32.5
 

Dietary Fiber and Its Role in Health

 
Dietary fiber consists of all palatable foods that are consumed by single-stomach animals (including humans) and that remain largely undigested upon reaching the large intestine. Many fibers, such as cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectin, are carbohydrates. Humans do not posess the enzyme necessary for splitting the bonds linking the individual fiber units.

Dietary fiber is the fiber that remains in the colon following digestion whereas crude fiber is the fiber that withstands laboratory analysis with dilute acids and alkalis. For every gram of crude fiber, there are roughly two to three grams of dietary fiber. Crude fiber is composed of cellulose, which is a complex molecule composed of glucose molecules. Related to cellulose is hemicellulose - one type of hemicellulose is pectin. Lignin , another form of crude fiber, is not a carbohydrate per se, but it is of plant origin and is also indigestible. Another fiber of importance is guar gum, which prevents the rapid uptake of glucose in the small intestine, slows gastric emptying, aids in blood sugar retention in diabetic patients and may also be effective in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia.
 
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Fenugreek Gum

 
The main component in albumen is galactomannan. Galactomannan is a polysaccharide made of galactose combined with mannan, high molecular compound of mannose. Starch is a polymer molecule made of glucose and nutritious, on the other hand mannan made of mannose cannot be digested and is not nutritious. However, galactomanna makes a great contribution to our food.

Galactomannan has a property of increasing viscosity when dissolved in the water and it is useful for forming. If galactomannan is added to milk, it will be ice cream, if added to cocoa, it will be chocolate, and if added to wheat flour, we can make firm noodle. We call the material increasing viscosity when dissolved in the water a gum.

Guar gum and Locust bean gum are also made of galactomannan and used as a gum. Like fenugreek, these gums are taken from legumes, but they have a different property from fenugreek. This difference is originated from the difference of a chemical structure. The ratio of galactose to mannose for fenugreek is 1:1, but for Guar gum, it is 1:2, and for Locust bean gum, it is 1:4. The less the rate of galactose becomes, the less the solubility becomes. 100% pure mannan without galactose is completely insoluble in water. That is because a chain of galactose prevents becoming insoluble by extending a macromolecule of mannan. So, fenugreek gum containing more galactose has superior solubility and dispersiveness and forms stable colloid for a long time compared to Guar gum and Locust bean gum. If an electrolyte is added to, its viscosity is weakened a little, but if pH is changed, it is stable and has no change in viscosity. Galactose is hydrophilic and mannan is hydrophobic. This means that fenugreek gum is surface-active, in other words, an emulsifier that mixes water and oil. It dissolves oil into water, increases viscosity, and forms aqueous colloids. That moderately disperses oil particles and prevents from sticking to each other, therefore it can maintain the state of oil dispersion. This kind of material is called a stabilizer. Fenugreek galactomannan works as a gum and an emulsifier, so that it can be used as a stabilizer for food. Thus, fenugreek gum has superior characteristics compared to other conventional gums. Interestingly, the higher the ratio of galactose is, the stronger the effect of lowering the level of sugar and cholesterol in the blood becomes. That is, fenugreek is a medicinal natural food additive.
 

Fenugreek's medicinal virtues

 
It has been used as a folk medicine since ancient days, and the reason why it has recently attract particular attention is its effect on diabetes.

It has been confirmed by animal experiments and clinical tests on humans that ingesting the food compounded fenugreek gum powder certainly lowers the level of sugar in the blood for the past few years. Moreover, it has been proved that fenugreek seeds lowers the level of cholesterol and fat in the blood and restrains biosynthesis of cholesterol in the liver. The results of many researches have discovered that these effects are caused by galactomannan contained in albumen in seeds (fenugreek gum). Polysaccharide, or dietary fiber, generally has the effect of lowering the level of cholesterol, and fenugreek is distinctive for having the effect of lowering the level of sugar in the blood as well.

When used for diabetes and hypercholesterolemia, it has been proved that the more fenugreek seeds they take, the more the effect they can get. However, it was difficult to take much seed powder because it has a bitter taste and a peculiar smell. We have succeeded in abstracting only albumen from seeds containing 25% of albumen, and then produced fenugreek gum powder. It has no taste and no smell because it does not contain testa which has a bitter taste and a peculiar smell, so everyone can eat it. We have also succeeded in purifying gum powder and abstracting only fenugreek galactomannan without taste and smell.
 

Intake of Fenugreek Gum

 
There is no limit for the intake because fenugreek gum is harmless. According to clinical tests, 1.25g of gum (5g in seeds) is enough to lower the blood sugar level and cholesterol. There is a case that 7.25g of gum (30g in seeds) are taken for therapeutic purposes. Generally, it is thought to be effective to take approximately 6g in gum powder or approximately 5g in refined gum powder whose galactomannan content is more than 80%. It is confirmed by animal experiments that administration of the amount equivalent to 120g per day for human does no harm.
 

Mechanisim of action of Galactomannan

 
Animal tests have proved that galactomannan blocks intestinal abosorption of glucose. However, the reason is unknown why intaking galactomannan indigestible for human lowers the level of cholesterol in blood and also lowers biosynthesis of cholesterol in the liver. In general, it is said that the action of dietary fiber which increases intestinal viscosity, absorbs cholesterol, and eliminates it as bowel movement reduces the absorption of cholesterol and lowers the level of cholesterol in blood. It is, however, unexplainable why biosynthesis of cholesterol is also lowered.

Some say that galactomannan is aliment for enteric bacteria which decompose glucose into volatile fatty acid so that the absorption of sugar is reduced and fatty acid is absorbed into blood that prevents biosynthesis of cholesterol. Others say that galactomannan causes intestinal canal wall to secrete more hormones and enzymes, and they affect biosynthesis of cholesterol in the liver and the absorption of sugar. But the mechanism has not been fully understood yet. It is certainly possible that bacteria bred by galactomannan have a meaningful relation to these effects, like oligosaccharide breeds Lactobacillus bijidus.
 

Other effects by fenugreek gum

 
Because fenugreek galactomannan is dietary fiber, it has an effect as bulk cathartic, so that it works well for constipation. Moreover, it lowers not only cholesterol but also blood fat such as triglyceride. In various experiments designed to determine the effect of lowering blood sugar, weight loss is also observed. This indicates that long-term intake of fenugreek gum loses weight, so you can make diet foods by compounding it into various foods.
 

Fenugreek gum

 
Fenugreek gum has three grades, Gum A, Gum B, and Gum C. These grades have different galactmannan content. Gum A contains over 86% of galactmannan, Gum B contains over 80-86% of galactomannan, Gum C contains 60-80% of galactomannan.

When Gum A and B dissolves in water, odorless translucent white gel occurs, and its taste is like cereal. When you use it as a viscous agent, we recommend that you use Gum A and B. Gum C are by-products of Gum A and B, which still have a faint curry smell and are more yellowish brown than Gum B. But if you use it for the things not to be dissolved in water like health supplements, tablets, and capsules. The use of Gum C is recommended because they are cheaper than Gum A and B. Gum A is purest gum and is used for cosmetic raw material.
 

Specification of Fenugreek Gum powder

 
Sensoric Judgement
Appearance ,Odor &taste
GRADE A: White or slight yellowish powder with a slight original smell.
GRADE B: light yellowish powder with a slight original smell.
GRADE C: light brownish powder with a slight curry smell.
Property When dissolved in the water, it gains viscosity and become jelly solution.
Purity
1. Acid insoluble matter: A and B: not ≥ 3%
 C: not  ≥  5%
2. Water insoluble matter: A and B: not ≥ 3%
 C: not ≥ 5%
3. Heavy metal: not ≥  20ppm (Pb)
4. Arsenic: not ≥ 2ppm
5. Moisture: not ≥ 12%
6.Viscosity
Brookf.1% sol, 25 ۫ C
spindle 3, 20 rpm
A: not ≤ 3400Pa.s
 B: not ≤3000Pa.S
 C: not ≤ 1000Pa.S
7.Granularity: A and B: Not ≥ 70 mesh
 C: Not ≥ 100 mesh
Nutritional
1. Protein: Not ≥ 5%
2. Starch: negative
3. Fat: not ≥ 1%
4. Fiber: A: not ≤ 86%
B: not ≤ 80%
C: not ≤ 70%
5. Calorie: Not ≥ 1kcal/g
Ash: Not ≥ 1.5%
Gum content:
Galactomannan A: not ≤  86%
 B: not ≤ 80%
 C: not ≤ 60%
Microbiological value
(1) General Bacteria: bacteria: not ≥ 300
Fungi: not ≥ 300
(2) E. Coli: negative
 
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