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Fennel
Fennel

Fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet, adding a refreshing contribution to the ever popular Mediterranean cuisine. Most often associated with Italian cooking, be sure to add this to your selection of fresh vegetables from the autumn through early spring when it is readily available and at its best.

Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which closely superimposed stalks are arranged. The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce fennel seeds. The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible. Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.

Fennel, sliced, raw
1.00 cup
(87.00 grams)
Calories: 27
GI: very low

NutrientDRI/DV


 fiber11%




 copper7%

 folate6%




 iron4%




This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Fennel provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Fennel can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Fennel, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

Health Benefits

Fennel Contains Unique Phytonutrients with Antioxidant and Health-Promoting Effects

Like many of its fellow spices, fennel contains its own unique combination of phytonutrients—including the flavonoids rutin, quercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides—that give it strong antioxidant activity. The phytonutrients in fennel extracts compare favorably in research studies to BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), a potentially toxic antioxidant commonly added to processed foods.

The most fascinating phytonutrient compound in fennel, however, may be anethole—the primary component of its volatile oil. In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer. Researchers have also proposed a biological mechanism that may explain these anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. This mechanism involves the shutting down of a intercellular signaling system called tumor necrosis factor (or TNF)-mediated signaling. By shutting down this signaling process, the anethole in fennel prevents activation of a potentially strong gene-altering and inflammation-triggering molecule called NF-kappaB. The volatile oil has also been shown to be able to protect the liver of experimental animals from toxic chemical injury.

Antioxidant Protection and Immune Support from Vitamin C in Fennel

In addition to its unusual phytonutrients, fennel bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is the body's primary water-soluble antioxidant, able to neutralize free radicals in all aqueous environments of the body. If left unchecked, these free radicals cause cellular damage that results in the pain and joint deterioration that occurs in conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The vitamin C found in fennel bulb is directly antimicrobial and is also needed for the proper function of the immune system.

Fiber, Folate and Potassium in Fennel for Cardiovascular and Colon Health

As a very good source of fiber, fennel bulb may help to reduce elevated cholesterol levels. And since fiber also removes potentially carcinogenic toxins from the colon, fennel bulb may also be useful in preventing colon cancer. In addition to its fiber, fennel is a very good source of folate, a B vitamin that is necessary for the conversion of a dangerous molecule called homocysteine into other, benign molecules. At high levels, homocysteine, which can directly damage blood vessel walls, is considered a significant risk factor for heart attack or stroke. Fennel is also a very good source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower high blood pressure, another risk factor for stroke and heart attack.

Description

Fennel is a versatile vegetable that plays an important role in the food culture of many European nations, especially in France and Italy. Its esteemed reputation dates back to the earliest times and is reflected in its mythological traditions. Greek myths state that fennel was not only closely associated with Dionysus, the Greek god of food and wine, but that a fennel stalk carried the coal that passed down knowledge from the gods to men.

Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which closely superimposed stalks are arranged. The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce fennel seeds. The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible. Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.

Fennel's aromatic taste is unique, strikingly reminiscent of licorice and anise, so much so that fennel is often mistakenly referred to as anise in the marketplace. Fennel's texture is similar to that of celery, having a crunchy and striated texture.

The scientific name for fennel is Foeniculum vulgare.

History

Ever since ancient times, fennel has enjoyed a rich history. The ancient Greeks knew fennel by the name "marathron"; it grew in the field in which one of the great ancient battles was fought and which was subsequently named the Battle of Marathon after this revered plant. Fennel was also awarded to Pheidippides, the runner who delivered the news of the Persian invasion to Sparta. Greek myths also hold that knowledge was delivered to man by the gods at Olympus in a fennel stalk filled with coal. Fennel was revered by the Greeks and the Romans for its medicinal and culinary properties.

Fennel has been grown throughout Europe, especially areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and the Near East since ancient times. Today, the United States, France, India and Russia are among the leading cultivators of fennel.

How to Select and Store

Good quality fennel will have bulbs that are clean, firm and solid, without signs of splitting, bruising or spotting. The bulbs should be whitish or pale green in color. The stalks should be relatively straight and closely superimposed around the bulb and should not splay out to the sides too much. Both the stalks and the leaves should be green in color. There should be no signs of flowering buds as this indicates that the vegetable is past maturity. Fresh fennel should have a fragrant aroma, smelling subtly of licorice or anise. Fennel is usually available from autumn through early spring.

At WHFoods, we encourage the purchase of certified organically grown foods, and fennel is no exception. Repeated research studies on organic foods as a group show that your likelihood of exposure to contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals can be greatly reduced through the purchased of certified organic foods, including fennel. In many cases, you may be able to find a local organic grower who sells fennel but has not applied for formal organic certification either through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or through a state agency. (Examples of states offering state-certified organic foods include California, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.) However, if you are shopping in a large supermarket, your most reliable source of organically grown fennel is very likely to be fennel that displays the USDA organic logo.

Store fresh fennel in the refrigerator crisper, where it should keep fresh for about four days.

Here's why we recommend refrigerating fennel. Whenever food is stored, four basic factors affect its nutrient composition: exposure to air, exposure to light, exposure to heat, and length of time in storage. Vitamin C, vitamin B6, and carotenoids are good examples of nutrients highly susceptible to heat, and for this reason, their loss from food is very likely to be slowed down through refrigeration.

It is best to consume fennel soon after purchase since as it ages, it tends to gradually lose its flavor. While fresh fennel can be frozen after first being blanched, it seems to lose much of its flavor during this process. Dried fennel seeds should be stored in an airtight container in a cool and dry location where they will keep for about six months. Storing fennel seeds in the refrigerator will help to keep them fresher longer.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

Tips for Preparing Fennel

The three different parts of fennel—the base, stalks and leaves—can all be used in cooking. Cut the stalks away from the bulb at the place where they meet. If you are not going to be using the intact bulb in a recipe, then first cut it in half, remove the base, and then rinse it with water before proceeding to cut it further. Fennel can be cut in a variety of sizes and shapes, depending upon the recipe and your personal preference. The best way to slice it is to do so vertically through the bulb. If your recipe requires chunked, diced or julienned fennel, it is best to first remove the harder core that resides in the center before cutting it. The stalks of the fennel can be used for soups, stocks and stews, while the leaves can be used as an herb seasoning.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas
  • Healthy sautéed fennel and onions make a wonderful side dish.
  • Combine sliced fennel with avocados, and oranges for a delightful salad.
  • Braised fennel is a wonderful complement to scallops.
  • Next time you are looking for a new way to adorn your sandwiches, consider adding sliced fennel in addition to the traditional toppings of lettuce and tomato.
  • Top thinly sliced fennel with plain yogurt and mint leaves.
  • Fennel is a match made in Heaven when served with salmon.

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

If you'd like even more recipes and ways to prepare fennel the Nutrient-Rich Way, you may want to explore The World's Healthiest Foods book.

Nutritional Profile

Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is also a very good of dietary fiber, potassium, molybdenum, manganese, copper, phosphorus and folate. In addition, fennel is a good source of calcium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, iron and niacin.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling." Read more background information and details of our rating system.

Fennel, sliced, raw
1.00 cup
87.00 grams
Calories: 27
GI: very low
NutrientAmountDRI/DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin C10.44 mg149.3excellent
fiber2.70 g117.2very good
potassium360.18 mg106.9very good
molybdenum4.35 mcg106.5very good
manganese0.17 mg95.7very good
copper0.06 mg74.4very good
phosphorus43.50 mg64.1very good
folate23.49 mcg63.9very good
calcium42.63 mg42.8good
pantothenic acid0.20 mg42.7good
magnesium14.79 mg42.5good
iron0.64 mg42.4good
vitamin B30.56 mg42.3good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DRI/DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
very good DRI/DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
good DRI/DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, here is an in-depth nutritional profile for Fennel. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Fennel, sliced, raw
(Note: "--" indicates data unavailable)
1.00 cup
(87.00 g)
GI: very low
BASIC MACRONUTRIENTS AND CALORIES
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Protein1.08 g2
Carbohydrates6.35 g3
Fat - total0.17 g--
Dietary Fiber2.70 g11
Calories26.971
MACRONUTRIENT AND CALORIE DETAIL
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Carbohydrate:
Starch-- g
Total Sugars-- g
Monosaccharides-- g
Fructose-- g
Glucose-- g
Galactose-- g
Disaccharides-- g
Lactose-- g
Maltose-- g
Sucrose-- g
Soluble Fiber-- g
Insoluble Fiber-- g
Other Carbohydrates-- g
Fat:
Monounsaturated Fat-- g
Polyunsaturated Fat-- g
Saturated Fat-- g
Trans Fat-- g
Calories from Fat1.57
Calories from Saturated Fat--
Calories from Trans Fat--
Cholesterol0.00 mg
Water78.48 g
MICRONUTRIENTS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Vitamins
Water-Soluble Vitamins
B-Complex Vitamins
Vitamin B10.01 mg1
Vitamin B20.03 mg2
Vitamin B30.56 mg4
Vitamin B3 (Niacin Equivalents)0.56 mg
Vitamin B60.04 mg2
Vitamin B120.00 mcg0
Biotin-- mcg--
Choline-- mg--
Folate23.49 mcg6
Folate (DFE)23.49 mcg
Folate (food)23.49 mcg
Pantothenic Acid0.20 mg4
Vitamin C10.44 mg14
Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Vitamin A (Retinoids and Carotenoids)
Vitamin A International Units (IU)116.58 IU
Vitamin A mcg Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE)5.83 mcg (RAE)1
Vitamin A mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)11.66 mcg (RE)
Retinol mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)0.00 mcg (RE)
Carotenoid mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)11.66 mcg (RE)
Alpha-Carotene-- mcg
Beta-Carotene-- mcg
Beta-Carotene Equivalents69.95 mcg
Cryptoxanthin-- mcg
Lutein and Zeaxanthin0.00 mcg
Lycopene0.00 mcg
Vitamin D
Vitamin D International Units (IU)0.00 IU0
Vitamin D mcg0.00 mcg
Vitamin E
Vitamin E mg Alpha-Tocopherol Equivalents (ATE)-- mg (ATE)--
Vitamin E International Units (IU)-- IU
Vitamin E mg-- mg
Vitamin K-- mcg--
Minerals
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Boron-- mcg
Calcium42.63 mg4
Chloride-- mg
Chromium-- mcg--
Copper0.06 mg7
Fluoride-- mg--
Iodine-- mcg--
Iron0.64 mg4
Magnesium14.79 mg4
Manganese0.17 mg9
Molybdenum4.35 mcg10
Phosphorus43.50 mg6
Potassium360.18 mg10
Selenium0.61 mcg1
Sodium45.24 mg3
Zinc0.17 mg2
INDIVIDUAL FATTY ACIDS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids-- g--
Omega-6 Fatty Acids-- g
Monounsaturated Fats
14:1 Myristoleic-- g
15:1 Pentadecenoic-- g
16:1 Palmitol-- g
17:1 Heptadecenoic-- g
18:1 Oleic-- g
20:1 Eicosenoic-- g
22:1 Erucic-- g
24:1 Nervonic-- g
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
18:2 Linoleic-- g
18:2 Conjugated Linoleic (CLA)-- g
18:3 Linolenic-- g
18:4 Stearidonic-- g
20:3 Eicosatrienoic-- g
20:4 Arachidonic-- g
20:5 Eicosapentaenoic (EPA)-- g
22:5 Docosapentaenoic (DPA)-- g
22:6 Docosahexaenoic (DHA)-- g
Saturated Fatty Acids
4:0 Butyric-- g
6:0 Caproic-- g
8:0 Caprylic-- g
10:0 Capric-- g
12:0 Lauric-- g
14:0 Myristic-- g
15:0 Pentadecanoic-- g
16:0 Palmitic-- g
17:0 Margaric-- g
18:0 Stearic-- g
20:0 Arachidic-- g
22:0 Behenate-- g
24:0 Lignoceric-- g
INDIVIDUAL AMINO ACIDS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Alanine-- g
Arginine-- g
Aspartic Acid-- g
Cysteine-- g
Glutamic Acid-- g
Glycine-- g
Histidine-- g
Isoleucine-- g
Leucine-- g
Lysine-- g
Methionine-- g
Phenylalanine-- g
Proline-- g
Serine-- g
Threonine-- g
Tryptophan-- g
Tyrosine-- g
Valine-- g
OTHER COMPONENTS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Ash0.91 g
Organic Acids (Total)-- g
Acetic Acid-- g
Citric Acid-- g
Lactic Acid-- g
Malic Acid-- g
Taurine-- g
Sugar Alcohols (Total)-- g
Glycerol-- g
Inositol-- g
Mannitol-- g
Sorbitol-- g
Xylitol-- g
Artificial Sweeteners (Total)-- mg
Aspartame-- mg
Saccharin-- mg
Alcohol0.00 g
Caffeine0.00 mg

Note:

The nutrient profiles provided in this website are derived from The Food Processor, Version 10.12.0, ESHA Research, Salem, Oregon, USA. Among the 50,000+ food items in the master database and 163 nutritional components per item, specific nutrient values were frequently missing from any particular food item. We chose the designation "--" to represent those nutrients for which no value was included in this version of the database.

References

  • Chainy GB, Manna SK, Chaturvedi MM, Aggarwal BB. Anethole blocks both early and late cellular responses transduced by tumor necrosis factor: effect on NF-kappaB, AP-1, JNK, MAPKK and apoptosis. Oncogene 2000 Jun 8;19(25):2943-50. 2000. PMID:12930.
  • Ensminger AH, Ensminger, ME, Kondale JE, Robson JRK. Foods & Nutriton Encyclopedia. Pegus Press, Clovis, California. 1983.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986. 1986. PMID:15210.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York. 1996.
  • Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Dover Publications, New York. 1971.
  • Ostad SN, Soodi M, Shariffzadeh M, et al. The effect of fennel essential oil on uterine contraction as a model for dysmenorrhea, pharmacology and toxicology study. J Ethnopharmacol 2001 Aug;76(3):299-304. 2001. PMID:12940.
  • Ozbek H, Ugras S, Dulger H et al. Hepatoprotective effect of Foeniculum vulgare essential oil. Fitoterapia 2003 Apr; 74(3):317-9. 2003.
  • Ruberto G, Baratta MT, Deans SG, Dorman HJ. Antioxidant and antimicrobial activity of Foeniculum vulgare and Crithmum maritimum essential oils. Planta Med 2000 Dec;66(8):687-93. 2000. PMID:12920.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988. 1988. PMID:15220.

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