Did anyone hear about sumac? Well, there’s the plant called Sumac that causes an itchy rash upon touching it, and the edible powder added to salad dressings, marinades, dry rubs, and spice blends. Here, we’ll focus on the edible powder sumac that’s commonly added to za’atar.
What’s surprising about this powder is its ability to affect our health in many positive ways. Studies suggest even using it for blood sugar control.
The deep red berries from the sumac bush are dried and grounded into an edible powder that’s added to many dishes for a tangy, lemony flavor. This spice is popular in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, but we can also find it in our local grocery store among other spices and herbs.
There’s a difference between the poisonous and edible sumac plant. In fact, there are around 250 varieties in the world. The edible variety has deep red color berries which are attached to upright stalks.
On the other hand, the poisonous one has gray or white color berries that hang from the branch.
Two varieties of edible sumac are loaded with potent antioxidants like anthocyanins and other polyphenols, which help prevent free radical damage. This means that the plant helps protect against many chronic diseases and premature aging.
In fact, it contains more powerful antioxidant properties than many fruits and vegetables. Besides containing flavonoids and polyphenols, sumac includes anthocyanidins – a special group of anthocyanins with aglycones.
According to a 2014 research, Sicilian sumac has the most potent antioxidant properties than other spices like turmeric, fennel, barberry, red pepper, black pepper, laurel, nutmeg, and white mustard.
It also has the highest phenolic content, along with laurel. When it comes to antibacterial activity, sumac and barberry proved to be the most efficient. That’s why researchers concluded that sumac could be the best natural food preservative.
But, the antioxidant activity is not the only reason why sumac is exceptionally healthy. According to studies, Sicilian sumac might provide antifungal activity against the human pathogen Aspergillus Flavus which causes a lung infection in people with a weak immune system.
Researchers from the McGill University, Montreal, Canada, found that the berries from this plant could protect against hardening of the arteries – atherosclerosis. That’s why they suggest the berries could support heart health.
The Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research published a double-blind study that analyzed how sumac affects blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes.
The participants were divided into two groups, one of them receiving 3 grams of sumac powder a day, and the other one a placebo. Their blood was tested before and after the 3-month long research.
The results showed that the blood sugar levels of the participants who received sumac powder were significantly reduced, as opposed to the placebo group.
What’s more, their levels of apo-I, apoB, and total antioxidant capacity were also improved. This means that the powder helped them reduce the risk of further complications.
Healthline showed that taking an herbal capsule containing sumac (also known as ziabetes) 3 times a day for 4 weeks have reduced blood sugar levels, both fasting and postprandial. The best part is that the capsules didn’t cause any side effects.
We can sprinkle it over food before serving. Combine it with chicken, grilled vegetables, fish, and grilled lamb. We can also use it as a topping on hummus and fattoush salad. As we mentioned, it is one of the main ingredients of za’atar.