Licorice doesn't suit everyone’s taste, so when some folks hear that fennel’s flavor resembles anise or licorice, they shy away from it. But raw fennel’s savory and mild licorice flavor adds brightness to a dish rather than overwhelming it with a strong, unpleasant taste. It’s worth a try because it supplies fiber, potassium and vitamin C -- and almost no calories.
Florence fennel, also called sweet fennel, produces a large bulb that grows just above the ground at the base of the leaves. This bulb is sometimes referred to as fennel root even though it’s not a true root. The fresh bulb has a texture that’s similar to celery and can be used fresh or cooked. One cup of raw, sliced fennel has 27 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of protein and no fat. It’s also a good source of fiber. Women need 25 grams of fiber daily, and 1 cup has 2.7 grams, which is 11 percent of the daily value.
Fresh fennel bulb is a good option when you’re searching for new ways to add vitamin C to your diet. One cup has 10 milligrams, or 13 percent of a woman’s daily value of vitamin C. Your body depends on vitamin C’s antioxidant ability to neutralize free radicals before they damage healthy cells. In that role, it prevents inflammation and supports your immune system. Vitamin C also keeps your skin healthy by fighting the effect of sunlight and producing the collagen that gives your skin strength and flexibility.
Potassium carries the electrical impulses that stimulate muscles, make nerves communicate and regulate your heart beat. It also keeps your heart healthy by lowering your blood pressure. Getting enough potassium in your diet offsets the bad effect on blood pressure if you eat too much salt. Women need to consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily. If you’re not sure how much you eat, it’s worth tracking for a few days because most Americans eat only about half of the recommended amount. You’ll get 360 milligrams of potassium, or 8 percent of your daily value, from 1 cup of sliced fennel bulb.
Your body needs folate to make normal red blood cells. It's also essential for the production of DNA and the normal development of new cells, which makes it essential before and during pregnancy. Getting enough folate prevents birth defects of the brain and spinal cord that can develop in the first 28 days after conception. Women need 400 micrograms daily, but the amount goes up to 600 micrograms during pregnancy. One cup of sliced, raw fennel has 23 micrograms.
You already know that calcium helps prevent osteoporosis, but don’t let that tempt you into thinking it’s only important later in life. At all ages, bones continuously remove old or damaged bone and replace it with new calcium. You need 1,000 milligrams daily to support that remodeling process now and throughout your life. You'll get 43 milligrams, or 4 percent of the recommended daily intake of calcium, in 1 cup of sliced, raw fennel bulb.
Thinly slice fresh fennel root and add it to any soup or salad, or mix it with green beans and white beans, then top them with an olive oil vinaigrette or pesto. Raw fennel can be roasted with other root vegetables or steamed and sprinkled with low-fat Parmesan cheese.
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Fennel, Bulb, Raw
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes
- University of California at Davis: Fennel
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C and Skin Health
- Linus Pauling Institute: Potassium
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Folate
- Yale School of Medicine: Nutrition Before Pregnancy
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