3 low-key reasons why nutmeg is good for you, nutritionists say

One of the best parts of the fall and holiday seasons are the familiar flavors and spices that define seasonal foods and cuisines. Whether it's eggnog, a pumpkin spice latte, or a warm slice of apple pie, the comforting smell and taste of nutmeg will inspire you to curl up on the couch with one of these treats. But besides being delicious, nutmeg offers a variety of health benefits.

"Nutmeg is the quintessential winter spice because the flavor is warm, slightly nutty, and has a hint of sweetness," says Brigitte Zeitlin RD, registered dietitian and owner of BZ Nutrition in New York City. While you might only add a little of this spice to baked goods or drinks, Zeitlin and other nutritionists say its health benefits shouldn't be underestimated.

Nutmeg comes from the tropical Myristicaceae tree, native to the Moluccas (also known as the Spice Islands) in Indonesia. This spice is made from nutmeg seeds and is commonly grown in these islands as well as the West Indies. Although nutmeg can be purchased as a whole seed, it is usually sold ground, similar to cinnamon.

While you may associate nutmeg with your favorite holiday treats, here are just a few of the health benefits this spice has to offer.

Nutmeg contains important micronutrients

Nutmeg is a source of micronutrients such as iron, magnesium and calcium. "These nutrients can provide additional benefits, such as improving mood disorders through increased magnesium and improving diabetes symptoms through healthy fat and fiber intake," says Gabrielle Tafur, a registered dietitian in Orlando, Fla., a nutritionist.

Nutmeg is a source of antioxidants

"Nutmeg is also rich in antioxidants, which are especially important for boosting immunity during fall and flu season and preventing other chronic diseases," says Tarver. Antioxidants are compounds that protect cells from free radicals, molecules linked to heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

"[The antioxidants in nutmeg] also help promote and maintain healthy mental cognition and fight signs of premature aging like fine lines and wrinkles," Zeitlin adds.

Nutmeg may also reduce inflammation and enhance libido, although research is limited

A 2016 review of research published in the journal Phytochemical Reviews suggests that nutmeg may provide anti-inflammatory benefits for people with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. Likewise, a 2005 study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that consuming nutmeg may increase sexual desire. However, these studies were conducted on animals, so ultimately more research will be needed to do the same in humans.

How to spice up your holidays with nutmeg

In addition to baking with nutmeg in cookie and banana bread recipes, Zeitlin says it can be used to flavor meats and vegetables or enhance fall-themed dishes like pumpkin or butternut squash soup. She likes to add it to matcha lattes and teas, as well as adult holiday drinks like mulled wine or hot toddies. Tarver also recommends sprinkling a little into your coffee if you want to add some natural flavor. (Taver says that while most people consume very small amounts of nutmeg when adding it to recipes, it's worth noting that it can have hallucinogenic effects when consumed in large amounts.)

No matter how you choose to enjoy it, you can rest assured that adding a little nutmeg to your food or drink will do your body good.

refer to:

Abourashed by EA. (2016) Chemical diversity and pharmacological significance of nutmeg secondary metabolites (Myristica fragrans Houtt.), Phytochemical Reviews, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5222521/ .

Ahmad S (2005) Experimental study on the sexual function-improving effects of nutmeg. (Nutmeg), BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1187868/ .

Beckerman B, Persaud H. (2019) Too much nutmeg: the spice is not so good. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229919305540 ?via% 3Dihub.

Zhang, C. (2015). Determination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in nutmeg (myristica) peel by in vitro assays, Natural Products Communications, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26434127/.Bonnefoy M. (2002). [Antioxidants slow down aging, facts and opinions]. La Presse Médicale, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12192730/ Beydoun MA. (2015). Dietary antioxidant intake and its association with cognitive function in an ethnically diverse sample of U.S. adults. Psychosomatic Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4597309/ .


Gabrielle Tafur , RD, nutritionist, Orlando, FL

Brigitte Zeitlin, New York City registered dietitian and owner of BZ Nutrition