Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a flowering plant species in the carrot family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks.
It is highly aromatic and flavorful herb used in cookery and, along with the similar-tasting anise, is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe. Florence fennel or finocchio, Italian: is a selection with a swollen, bulb-like stem base that is used as a vegetable.
Fennel is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including in its native range the mouse moth and the Old-world swallowtail. Where it has been introduced in North America it may be used by the anise swallowtail.
Fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet, adding a refreshing contribution to the ever popular Mediterranean cuisine. Most often associated with Italian cooking, be sure to add this to your selection of fresh vegetables from the autumn through early spring when it is readily available and its best.
Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which closely superimposed stalks are arranged. The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce Fenner seeds. The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible. Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrots 🥕dill and coriander.
This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Fennel provides for each of the nutrients of which it is good, very good or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by fennel cab be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for fennel, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF FENNEL
■ FENNEL CONTAINS UNIQUE PHYTONUTRIENTS WITH ANTIOXIDANTS AND HEALTH-PROMOTING EFFECTS.
Like many of its fellow species, fennel contains its own unique combination of phytonutrients – including the flavonoids, rutin, quercetin, and various kaempferol glycosides – that give it strong antioxidant activity. The phytonutrients in fennel extracts compare favorably in research studies to BHT (butylated hydroxytoluence), a potentially toxic antioxidant commonly added to processed foods.
The most fascinating phytonutrient compound in fennel, however, may be a anethole – the primary component of its volatile oil. In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer.
Researchers have also proposed a biological mechanism that may explain these anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. This mechanism involves the shutting down of a intercellular signaling system called tumor necrosis factor (or TNF) – mediated signaling. By shutting down this signaling process, the anethole in fennel prevents activation of a potentially strong gene-altering and inflammation-triggering molecule called NF-kappaB. The volatile oil has also been shown to be able to protect the liver of experimental animals from toxic chemical injury.
■ ANTIOXIDANT PROTECTION AND IMMUNE SUPPORT FROM VITAMIN C IN FENNEL
In addition to its unusual phytonutrients, fennel bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is the body’s primary water-soluble antioxidant, able to neutralize free radicals in all aqueous environments of the body. In left unchecked, these free radicals cause cellular damage that results in pain and joint deterioration that occurs in conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The vitamin C found in fennel bulb is directly antimicrobial and is also needed for the proper function of the immune system.
■ FIBER, FOLATE AND POTASSIUM IN FENNEL FOR CARDIOVASCULAR AND COLON HEALTH
As a very good source of fiber, fennel bulb may help reduce elevated cholesterol levels. And since fiber also removes potentially carcinogenic toxins from the colon, fennel bulb may also be useful in preventing colon cancer.
In addition to its fiber, fennel is a very good source of folate, a B vitamin that is necessary for the conversion of a dangerous molecule called homocysteine into other, benign molecules. At high levels, homocysteine, which can directly damage blood vessel walls, is considered a significant risk factor for heart attack or stroke. Fennel is also a very good source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower high blood pressure, another risk factor for stroke and heart attack.
NUTRITIONAL PROFILE OF FENNEL
Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is also a very good of dietary fiber, potassium, molybdenum, manganese, copper, phosphorus and folate. In addition, fennel is a good source of calcium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, iron and niacin.