Chia seeds have been touted for weight loss and appetite control. Basil seeds belong to the same family as chia seeds (mint family) and these seeds are also to be excellent for weight loss. Basil seeds are also known as Tukmaria or Sabja.
The essential oil of Sweet Basil contains more than 200 therapeutic compounds. The herb is rich in flavonoids, phytosterols, polyphenols, triterpines, alkaloids each of which contributes to its medicinal properties.
Tukmaria or sweet basil seeds are oval in shape and black in color. They look similar to poppy seeds. They are larger than chia seeds and swell faster. They contain planteose, mucilage, polysaccharides and oil rich in linoleic acid, linolenic acid and unsaturated fatty acids.
Now let’s go over a couple of reasons why Basil seeds or Sabja could be a potential weight loss food.
5 Evidence-based Benefits of Basil Seeds (Tukmaria) For Weight Loss
Here are few evidence-based reasons why Basil seeds are good for weight loss.
1. Basil seeds have essential fatty acids that help in weight loss
Basil seeds contain oil which comprises of approximately 50% linoleic acid, 22% linolenic acid, 15% oleic acid and 8% unsaturated fatty acids.
This is a good blend of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Linolenic acid is the good omega 6 fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory property.
Linoleic acid is an important precursor to an anti-obesity agent, conjugated linoleic acid. Research indicates that conjugated linoleic acid exerts an anti-obesity effect in the following ways:
- Reducing energy intake
- Increasing basal metabolic rate
- Inhibiting development of fat cells
- Suppressing fat production and stimulating breakdown of fats
A study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2004 revealed that daily supplementation with Conjugated linoleic acid for 1 year resulted in the fat loss of 6-9% in healthy overweight individuals.
Further, a review study published in the same journal in 2007 also suggested that CLA supplementation can bring about modest weight loss.
So your daily dose of basil seeds can provide you with a good blend of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids that can help counteract inflammation and help in fat loss.
What does this mean?
Basil seeds contain oil comprising essential fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity properties which aid in obesity and weight loss.
2. Tukmaria is rich in dietary fibre
Various studies that observe dietary patterns of individuals on long-term reveal that dietary fibre intake is inversely associated with body weight.
Dietary fibre promotes satiety, decreases the absorption of fats and carbohydrates, regulates the activity of gut hormones and thus supports healthy weight loss.
Dietary fibre supplements are also found to improve metabolic and cardiovascular health in addition to improving weight loss outcomes.
Research suggests that sweet basil seeds contain around 80g of dietary fibre per 100g of seeds. This dietary fibre is soluble which helps control appetite, slows down absorption and digestion of food and regulates bowel movements.
Soaking Tukmaria in water helps create a gel of soluble dietary fibre and the seeds swell around 20-40% of their size. This soluble dietary fibre from Tukmaris can help meet daily dietary fibre requirements, reduce appetite and calorie intake.
What does this mean?
Dietary fibre content of Sabja or Tukmaria can help reduce appetite and reduce fat and carbohydrate absorption from diet, thus aiding in weight loss.
3. Sabja can help in controlling appetite
As mentioned previously, Sabja seeds are rich in soluble dietary fibre. Around 100g of sweet basil seeds provide 80g dietary fibre.
Soaked Sabja entrap 4 times the amount of water as unsoaked seeds. Sabja seeds swell around 20-40% of their original size to form mucilage or gel. This mucilage contains polysaccharides present in the outer layer of the seeds.
Consuming this gel prior to meals helps in appetite control and reduces subsequent calorie intake. It slows down the activity of digestive enzymes, improves blood sugar control and regulates gut hormones to send satiety signals to the brain.
A study published in The International Journal of Preventive Medicine 2016 assessed whether dietary fibre as sweet basil seeds assists in weight loss in Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease patients.
One group of individuals were asked to consume 10g Sabja per day, the second group was asked to consume 10g Plantago psyllium per day and the third group was asked to consume a mix of the two. The study lasted for 12 weeks.
Researchers concluded that neither basil seeds nor Plantago psyllium aided in weight loss in NAFLD patients (when results of all three groups were compared). But when observed within each group, basil seeds consumption led to significant reduction in body weight, fat mass, and BMI.
What does this mean?
Soluble dietary fibre present in basil seeds gel can serve as a natural appetite suppressant and reduce calorie intake.
4. Tukmaria seeds can help normalize blood sugar
Obesity paves way for conditions like diabetes and insulin resistance. These affect blood sugar levels which in turn affect appetite thus leading to a vicious cycle.
The gel formed by Tukmaria seeds slows down the action of carbohydrate degrading enzymes and thus lead to the slow breakdown of carbohydrates in the diet and subsequent slow release of glucose in the blood.
A study published in Biomed and Pharmacotherapy, 2016 revealed the blood sugar lowering potential of sabja or basil seeds.
The effect of high and low doses of aqueous extract of sweet basil seeds was assessed in an animal model of diabetes. It was observed that basil seeds significantly lowered blood sugar levels at both doses.
Improvement in body weight was also observed. Other liver function related parameters, blood cells related parameters and serum electrolytes were normalized.
Further investigation revealed that pancreatic islet cells, whose dysfunction is marked in diabetes, were also normalized in terms of cellular structure. Apart from basils seed’s blood sugar lowering properties, researchers proposed that they can be beneficial for dealing with diabetes complications like anemia, diabetic nephropathy, liver dysfunction etc.
What does this mean?
Basil seeds have anti-hyperglycemic or blood sugar lowering properties that can help regulate blood sugar levels in diabetes induced obesity and insulin resistance.
5. Basil seeds are low in calories and high in nutrients
Another simply awesome reason to include basil seeds in your weight loss diet is that they are low in calories and high in nutrients.
100g of Sabja pack 233 calories, so considering you have 1 teaspoon of Sabja a day it would be just 2-4 calories.
Though rich in carbohydrates, most of it comprises soluble dietary fibre which goes undigested and helps improve satiety.
Basil seeds are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin B-complex, vitamin E and K. Also they are a great source of Calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron.
Vitamins and minerals are essential for weight management and what’s better to get them from your diet rather than resorting to supplements.
Also the nutrient profile of Tukmaria or Sabja makes it an excellent addition to diet as a fat replacer, to boost antioxidant value of your food and to reduce calorie content as well. Adding basil seeds to fresh juices can be a good natural replacement to energy drinks required post workout.
What does this mean?
Basil seeds are low in calories and high in nutrients which make it an excellent weight loss food. Adding basil seeds or tukmaria to your dishes can aid in enhancing their nutritive value.
Does any study prove Basil seeds or Tukmaria’s benefits in Weight Loss?
There are not enough as well as comprehensive studies that assess the effect of Basil seeds or Sabja on obesity and weight loss. I came across two indirect studies which examine this point.
The first one is a study published in The International Journal of Preventive Medicine 2016 investigated whether dietary fibre in the form of Plantago psyllium and Ocimum basilicum seeds, assist in weight loss in Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease patients. I did mention a brief on this earlier.
The patients were assigned to four groups and instructed as follows:
- Group 1 consumed 10g of basil seeds per day
- Group 2 consumed 10g Plantago psyllium per day
- Mixture of basil seeds and Plantago psyllium (10g/day)
- Control group
The study lasted for 12 weeks. The study concluded that neither basil seeds nor Plantago psyllium or even their mix affects body weight or related measures in NAFLD
But a closer look at the results do highlight that when baseline characteristics were compared to post-treatment results , within each group a significant difference in body weight was observed. Body weight, BMI and fat mass were significantly reduced in basil seeds group.
In Plantago group, body weight, BMI, lean body mass and soft lean mass were reduced. In the mixed group, significant weight loss was observed especially in the trunk region.
The study, however, had limitations: patients’ diet was not monitored and some patients were taking medications to improve liver health that could nullify the effect of basil seeds (Tukmaria) and Plantago psyllium.
Thailand researchers conducted a study where they examined the effect of sweet basil seed on body weight. Now the species they used were seeds from Ocimum canum.
20 obese individuals were enrolled in the 16-week study. They were asked to consume 2g of sweet basil seeds soaked in 240 ml water twice a day prior to major meals for 12 weeks. So the daily dose was 4g basil seeds.
Based on whether they could consume more than 50% of the recommended dose or not, they were categorized as high dose and low dose groups.
A significant reduction in BMI was observed in high-dose group but a decrease in fat was not observed. It was assumed that body water content was reduced and this was proven by further tests.
For low dose group interestingly body fat increased at week 8. Apart from reduction in BMI and normalization of blood sugar levels, no other positive changes were observed in high dose group.
There is no definitive evidence to prove that Basil seeds or Tukmaria can help in weight loss, but it is much safer to choose a natural, safe and nutritious appetite suppressant over conventional appetite suppressants for weight loss.
What does this mean?
There is no clear clinical evidence to confirm that Basil seeds or Sabja helps in weight loss. More research involving large sample size and strict evaluation is required to assess this point.
Basil seeds or Tukmaria can still be used as a natural appetite suppressant. Since it is low in calorie but high in nutrients, it should definitely find some place in your weight loss diet.
Dosage of Basil seeds (Tukmaria) For Weight Loss
Basil seeds or sabja are hard to chew so it is generally advised to soak them prior to eating.
Take 1 teaspoon of basil seeds and soak them in one glass of water. Set them aside till they swell and form a gel. Then consume this water and gel mixture 1 hour prior to meals.
This will help control appetite and reduce subsequent calorie intake.
It is that simple. To make it tastier, you can prepare such a gel and mix part of the gel with yogurt and fresh fruits and consume it. Basil seeds or Tukmaria can be directly added to juices and consumed once they swell. You can add them to milkshakes and smoothies.
Basil seeds mixed with lemon water or lemonade is a great way of consuming it on a daily basis. This combination can serve as an awesome post workout energy drink.
Precautions while taking basil seeds
Basil seeds must be consumed after they have been soaked to form a gel. They absorb water rapidly and swell even in the mouth. So if consumed dry they may swell in the throat and cause choking.
Avoid giving Sabja or basil seeds to children without supervision.
In case you are allergic to any species in the mint family then avoid basil seeds (sabja).
Safety of Sabja or basil seeds during pregnancy or lactation has not been ascertained. Confirm with a health practitioner prior to consumption.
Considering the logic and evidence behind the action of basil seeds in weight loss, the best way basil seeds can help lose fat is by acting as a natural appetite suppressant.
However this has not been clinically proven. More studies are required to investigate this point.
Basil seeds (Tukmaria) contain essential fatty acids, dietary fibre and important vitamins and minerals. Plus they are low in calories.
One cannot expect a miracle weight loss with basil seeds but we would still recommend adding basil seeds or Sabja seeds to diet for daily health benefits and nutrition.