Herbs and spices can add flavor to your meals. But did you know they’re also filled with nutritional components that may help to boost your health?

Caraway, Carum carvi, is a member of the Apiaceae family, which includes carrots, celery, fennel, and parsley.

The seeds are commonly found in America in rye bread, caraway seed rolls, and more. It is also common in European cooking and baking. And this flavorful addition brings some potential health benefits along with it.

Ready to learn more? Here’s what we’ll cover:

Culinary Uses of Caraway

C. carvi is also known as meridian fennel or Persian cumin. While it is commonly referred to as caraway seed, the edible portion of the plant is actually a dried fruit.

A close up horizontal image of a small ceramic bowl containing Carum carvi seeds, with a small pile to the right, on a fabric surface.

Its unique anise-like flavor is perfect for use in both sweet and savory dishes, including rye bread, where it plays a starring role.

This spice is dominant in German cooking, especially in potato and cabbage-based dishes, like this Bavarian cabbage salad from our sister site, Foodal.

German-style kummelweck or “weck” rolls, a type of kaiser roll topped with seeds and coarse salt, are another popular use of this spice.

These rolls were made popular in the States with the beef on weck sandwich, featuring juicy roast beef and a horseradish spread. The sandwich is especially well known in Buffalo, New York.

To show off the sweeter side of the seasoning, the English often use it in caraway cakes, and the Lebanese add it to a spiced rice pudding known as meghli.

Nutritional Composition

When it comes to nutrition, caraway does not disappoint!

A close up of the white flowers of Carum carvi growing in the garden with bees landing on the blossoms, pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

Per tablespoon, the ground dried fruit contains 1.1 milligrams of iron, which is 6% of the recommended daily value for healthy adults.

The same amount also offers 2.5 grams of fiber. This is 10% of the recommended daily value, making it a good source!

Of course, it’s important to note that one tablespoon may be used in an entire recipe rather than being enjoyed in one serving of a given food, so you might not achieve these percentages in one meal.

Nonetheless, C. carvi seeds can still be advantageous to use in recipes to replace some or all of the added salt or sugar.

Excess sodium and sugar may lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases like hypertension or diabetes. But replacing them with a flavorful herb or spice is a tasty and health-conscious choice.

A close up horizontal image of Carum carvi growing in the garden pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

While the level of iron in this dried spice is not abundant enough for it to be considered a “good” source – technically categorized as 10-19% of the daily value of a given nutrient per serving – the iron content of caraway is definitely worth noting!

Adding animal-based sources to one’s diet is best for boosting iron content because they contain heme iron, which is more readily absorbed by the body. But that doesn’t mean plant-based sources aren’t valuable!

Adding caraway and other iron-rich plants such as leafy greens to meals can still help to improve iron levels, though it may take a larger quantity to achieve this.

Potential Health Benefits

In addition to providing iron, this seasoning has plenty of nutritional range. The fiber and terpenes that it contains bring benefits to the table, too.

Iron

Iron plays a critical role in maintaining our red blood cells. It is a major component of hemoglobin and myoglobin, proteins that carry oxygen from the lungs throughout the body, and into our muscles.

For those who are iron deficient, increasing intake can help to decrease fatigue and weakness, and improve athletic performance. Populations most at risk for deficiency are pregnant women, teen girls, infants, and those who frequently donate blood.

Fiber

The fiber in the seeds makes them an excellent add-in. Fiber encourages regular bowel movements and a flourishing and diverse gut microbiome. Encouraging a diverse range of beneficial gut bacteria to flourish can help to support your immune system and aid in digestion.

Fiber takes a relatively long time to digest, which means it provides a feeling of fullness for a longer period of time than other foods might offer. Adding extra fiber to your diet may help to limit snacking between meals, and aids in keeping blood sugar levels consistent.

Terpenes

Beyond iron and fiber, this fragrant seed also packs in some terpenes. These compounds are found in a plethora of different plants and typically give them a particular scent.

Limonene, a terpene found commonly in citrus peels, is also present in these seeds. Some studies have found that limonene may have anti-cancer effects, by increasing production of certain liver enzymes that help to detoxify carcinogens.

The seeds also contain d-carvone, a terpene that gives them the earthy flavor and scent that rye bread is known for. More research is needed for conclusive evidence on the health benefits of this terpene.

One study showed that d-carvone may help to suppress growth of colon cancer, and another done in rats showed a decrease in a certain type of hypertension.

Catching on to Caraway

Caraway packs in a substantial amount of flavor and nutrition. Growing this plant in your garden and trying this seasoning can bring new life to dishes, and may even improve your health!

A close up horizontal image of a silver scoop filled with caraway seeds spilling out on a wooden surface, pictured on a soft focus background.

Do you keep caraway seeds in your cabinet? Let me know some of your favorite ways to use them in the comments below!

For more info about growing caraway, add these articles to your reading list:

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About Tori Vallana, RD, LDN

Tori Vallana is a registered dietitian with a passion for making food and nutrition simple. She holds an associate’s degree in baking and pastry arts as well as a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. Tori loves perusing her local farmers market to find high-quality produce and encourages her patients to do the same!