The spice fenugreek appears to significantly improve muscle strength and weight lifting power output while possessing anti-cancer properties in vitro. In my 2-min video Benefits of Fenugreek Seeds I profile a study entitled "The effects of a commercially available botanical supplement on strength, body composition, power output, and hormonal profiles in resistance-trained males." Something had a "significant impact on both upper- and lower-body strength and body composition in comparison to placebo in a double blind controlled trial. These changes were obtained with no clinical side effects." Something allowed these men to leg press an extra hundred pounds compared to placebo. And the magical substance? Powdered fenugreek-a spice that may even double as an anti-cancer agent.
In the video I show human prostate cancer cells in a petri dish before and after being exposed to various concentrations of fenugreek compared to the effect of the spice on normal prostate cells. The effect was striking. The study concluded: "In summary, fenugreek seeds may possess potent anti-cancer properties."
So what's the downside? Well, there is a side effect of fenugreek seed consumption--it makes your armpits smell like maple syrup! See my 2-min. video Side-Effect of Fenugreek Seed Consumption for more.
Fenugreek may be to strength training what beets and arugula are to cardio. My ten video series on improving athletic performance with vegetables starts with Doping With Beet Juice and ends with So Should We Drink Beet Juice or Not?.
Other plants with apparently remarkable benefits include amla (see, for example, Amla Versus Diabetes), saffron (Saffron for the Treatment of Alzheimers), the tea plant (Dietary Brain Wave Alteration), and humble broccoli (Broccoli Versus Breast Cancer Stem Cells). More on the power of plants in general in Power Plants and spices like fenugreek in particular in Antioxidants in a Pinch. See what a whole diet of plants can do to prostate cancer cell growth in Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay.
Fenugreek is certainly something I've been trying to incorporate more into my family's diet based on all this amazing new data. It's strong stuff though! I'd be interested to hear any tips on how folks have been able to sneak it into their diets. I make these mean chia seed-encrusted dried mangoes that I sprinkle with fenugreek powder using the mix-a-yummy-with-yucky technique for adding less-than-delicious things to one's diet (like putting amla in smoothies). I find home-dried mangos so yummy I figure I could rub them with just about anything!
-Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: sportsandsocial / Flickr