Discover the 5 shocking health benefits of sumac.
With its tangy lemon flavor and vibrant red hue, sumac is a star ingredient that deserves a place in every spice cabinet.
As well as adding a zipper of flavor and color to 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 pinch of sumac to your diet can help lower cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar, and even reduce bone loss.
So what is sumac, and why should you start stocking up on this potent spice?
Let’s take a closer look at some of the health benefits of sumac.
What is sumac?
Sumac refers to any flowering plant that belongs to the genus Rhus or the family Anacardiaceae, which often consists of small sumac shrubs and trees that produce bright red fruits known as drupes.
These plants are grown throughout the world but are especially common in East Asia, Africa, and North America.
Some other popular variations include staghorn sumac, African sumac, smooth sumac, and fragrant sumac.
The sumac spice, however, is derived from the dried, ground berries of a specific type of plant.
This bright and flavorful 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? – has a unique flavor typically described as sour and slightly fruity, a bit like lemon.
But in addition to bringing a distinctive flavor to dishes, it also has a long list of impressive benefits.
Recent research suggests that this spice could have a powerful effect on blood sugar control, heart health, disease prevention, and even pain relief.
Health Benefits of sumac
Among the main benefits of this interesting spice we can find the following:
1.- Regulates blood sugar
High blood sugar can take a real toll on many aspects of your 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.
Besides, it has the power to help with 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 makes the body resistant to its effects, resulting in impaired blood sugar control.
It can be effective in lowering insulin levels to prevent insulin resistance and stabilize blood sugar.
2.- Reduces and regulates cholesterol
One of the main risks for heart disease is cholesterol.
Cholesterol can build up inside the arteries, causing them to narrow and harden, putting pressure on the heart muscle and making it difficult for blood to pass.
Although research is currently limited primarily to animal models, studies suggest that sumac benefits heart health by lowering cholesterol to reducing 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 giving chickens a combination of sumac and ginger 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 can reduce the risk of serious conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Sumac is a concentrated source of antioxidants that can help neutralize free radicals and keep your body healthy.
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 brittle 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 nearly 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.
Administration of sumac extract to rats was shown to alter the balance of several specific proteins involved in bone metabolism, resulting in decreased bone loss.
5.- Relieves muscle pain
If you suffer from chronic muscle aches and pain, you can change your spice cabinet to help.
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.
Due to its rich antioxidant 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 various autoimmune diseases, but studies also show that inflammation may also be involved in the regulation of pain.
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 to colds.
The fruit is also sometimes used as a natural diuretic to help promote proper elimination and detoxification.
Where to find Sumac
It can usually be found in the spice section of many grocery stores and is also common in specialty markets in the Middle East.
If you’re having trouble, you can find it online too, sometimes at an even lower price.
If you can get some berries from this spice, you can also try making it at home.
There are many tutorials online on how to make sumac, but it usually involves simply drying and roughly grinding the berries into 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 staple ingredient in Fattoush Salad and also works well with grilled meat and fish.
You can also add a pinch of sumac over cooked vegetables or garnishes for a little more color and flavor.
Note that the essence of sumac is different from poison sumac, a plant that is closely related to poison ivy.
Poison 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.
Adverse side effects of consuming sumac spices are very rare but possible.
It also belongs to the same plant family as cashew nuts and mango, so you may want to check with your doctor before trying sumac if you have a food allergy to any of these ingredients.
If you experience any negative symptoms like itching, swelling, or hives after eating sumac, stop using it and speak to a trusted healthcare professional.
If you take any medications to help lower 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 lower blood sugar and lower cholesterol, it can interact with these medications