Spotlight On: The Truth About Fennel

Benefits of Fennel

While fennel looks like an overgrown scallion with many stalks protruding from its white bulb, it is actually a perennial herb but grown as an annual vegetable crop, that has a mild but distinctive licorice / anise flavor.

Fennel is this month’s Spotlight! Until I learned about the importance of eating REAL foods grown in the earth, I had never tried fennel…never even heard of it. But curiosity got the best of me and so I was off to the market to buy some and try a few recipes.

While fennel looks like an overgrown scallion with many stalks protruding from its white bulb, it is actually a perennial herb but grown as an annual vegetable crop, that has a mild but distinctive licorice / anise flavor. Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander. It is very popular in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine and is slowly becoming more main stream in this country. All parts of the herb can be eaten and it is so versatile that it can be used in soups and salads, or roasted or tossed into rice, pasta, meat and fish dishes.

Aside from its versatility, fennel has remarkable health benefits as well. Fennel has a unique combination of phytonutrients including the flavonoids rutin, quercitin and various kaempferol glycosides, which give it strong antioxidant activity, helping to resist infection, aging, and degenerative and neurological diseases. What’s even more extraordinary, is that there is another phytonutrient, anethole, that has been shown to reduce inflammation and possibly help prevent the occurrence of cancer. Phytonutrients, also known as phytochemicals, are compounds found in plants (“phyto” refers to the Greek word for plant) that help protect the plant’s vitality. Some phytonutrients help our cells communicate better with eachother, others help prevent mutations at a cellular level.

Other ways that fennel helps support the immune system is through the abundance of vitamin C. Vitamin C is the body’s primary water-soluble antioxidant and in fennel is directly antimicrobial. Antioxidants are crucial in their ability to neutralize free radicals in our bodies (free radicals cause cellular damage that leads to pain and joint deterioration and arthritis).

Fennel is also high in fiber, potassium and folate, which are important for cardiovascular and colon health. Fiber is especially important for people to eat because it not only helps to reduce elevated cholesterol, but it also helps to remove potentially carcinogenic toxins from the colon.

Folate helps convert potentially dangerous molecules called homocysteine into a benign form; potassium, an electrolyte, helps fight high blood pressure and facilitates increased electrical connections in the brain, helping to increase brain function and cognitive abilities. There are several other nutrients that play supporting roles — manganese, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper.

Fennel is not known to be an allergenic food or to contain measurable amounts of oxalates or purines, but like anything, you want to eat a balanced meal consisting of the colors of the rainbow.

Fennel has been used for centuries in Asian medicine, with people using fennel essential oils. Indian culture chews on fennel seeds after a meal to both aid in digestion / ease an upset stomach and to eliminate bad breath. Fennel is also a popular antiflatulent, due to the carminative properties of the aspartic acid found in it and some clinical trials have even found that it eases colic in infants.

An easy way to incorporate it is to slice it thinly and add to salad, combined with granny smith apples and walnuts or avocados and oranges. Fennel also pairs well with vegetables such as beets, carrots and sweet potatoes. One of my favorites (besides the apple and walnut combination) is sautéed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and gluten-free pasta as a side dish to seared Alaskan salmon. There are many fennel recipes you can choose from. Enjoy!

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Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.

1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?

I have accepted that I  cannot control everything and that I have to learn to let go.

2. What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?  

I have learned to appreciate  my patience not only for my children but for people I meet on a daily basis. I am still working on appreciating what I have learned in my marriage.

3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?

My most rewarding achievements  are my 3 amazing kids. They are so different and I am so proud of how they are growing into the individual adults they should be, and not what others think they should be.  

4. We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth–we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?  

Ah…a not-so-perfect way…is feeling that I need to be in control!

5. “I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”  

I love my freedom.

About the author

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Sharon Holand Gelfand

A member of the American College of Nutrition, Sharon Holand Gelfand is a board certified nutrition consultant, lifestyle designer, motivational speaker and author whose mission is to empower women with the tools they need to live healthier, richer, spiritual lives. She’s passionate about helping them create a personal blueprint for success so that they can enjoy more balance and more freedom every day—without the constraints of traditional dieting.

Sharon’s unique perspective on nutrition is infused with real-life insight based on her own experiences managing her son’s Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and Ileitis, all part of Irritable Bowl Disease, an autoimmune disorder. It was only when dealing with her son’s condition that Sharon realized she had her own set of health issues which she had always ignored—hypoglycemia from constant dieting, chronic migraine headaches, anemia, strep, eye inflammation and chronic aches and pains in her neck. But by choosing healthier lifestyle options, she was able to not only help herself, but clear up her son’s chronic inflammation too.

Her philosophy? Eat well, think clearly, and live fully.

You can find out more about Sharon over at