In India, we love to eat yogurt — and not just for breakfast. Our favorite way to enjoy it is to add some vegetables, herbs and spices. The resulting dish is called “raita,” and there are dozens of delicious varieties to try.
The most basic of all raita is yogurt sprinkled with ground and roasted cumin seeds.
With the addition of these peppery little seeds, the plain yogurt is transformed into an aromatic and most delicious affair, with the brown of cumin lending an appealing color contrast against the creamy background.
It takes just a couple of minutes to ready the cumin raita. Place a teaspoon of cumin seeds on a flat pan, and toast them on medium heat. They will turn a deeper brown within a couple of minutes, and an unmistakable nutty aroma will fill the air. That’s your cue to take them off the heat and grind them using a pestle and mortar.
Now sprinkle the cumin powder on a big bowl of plain yogurt, add a little sea salt, mix everything together, and you have your raita ready. It is best enjoyed with freshly steamed rice and dal. Ayurvedic healers have always loved cumin for its appetite-stoking and digestion-aiding qualities.
So imagine my joy when I read a scientific study that says cumin and yogurt make an extremely healthy pair! Together, they can help you lose weight and reduce your levels of “bad” cholesterol.
During the three-month study, the research team at Iran’s Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences divided 88 overweight or obese women into two groups. Both groups received nutrition counseling and decreased their daily intake of calories by 500. The only difference? One group ate 3 grams (a little less than 1 teaspoon) of cumin powder daily, swirled into 5 ounces of yogurt, while the other group ate the same amount of yogurt minus the cumin.
The results: those who ate yogurt with cumin lost three more pounds than the other group, for a total of 13 pounds weight loss. Their body fat percentage reduced by a whopping 14.64 percent —almost triple the 4.91 percent loss posted by the control group. The conclusion: cumin is a fat-burning spice indeed.
But the dramatic benefits of cumin combined with yogurt don’t stop here. The cumin group’s levels of harmful blood fats, or triglycerides, dropped by 23 points, while the control group’s decreased only by 5. Cumin eaters also had nearly 10 points knocked off their LDL cholesterol reading. The control group shed just half a point in that category.
Scientists give the credit to phytosterols, plant based chemicals in cumin that inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the body.
So, an easily available spice with a lovely nutty aroma and a pleasant warm flavor, plus such incredible health benefits—what’s not to love!
Here are some more ideas to help you include cumin in your diet.