Native to Indonesia, the Myristica fragrans serves as a source of two spices -- its seeds make up nutmeg, while the rough outer seed coat is ground to make mace. Nutmeg has long been prized for its medicinal benefits, and its pungent, spicy aroma makes it a welcome addition to recipes. Adding nutmeg seed to your diet offers a number of nutritional benefits, including increased fiber and mineral intake, but consuming too much might cause harmful side effects.
Use nutmeg seed in your cooking as a source of dietary fiber -- a nutrient important for lifelong health. Fiber helps control both your blood cholesterol and your blood sugar levels, and following a fiber-rich diet helps reduce your risk of chronic illnesses, including Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Fiber also softens your stool, so you're less likely to suffer from constipation, and fights other digestive disorders, such as diverticular disease. Each 2-tablespoon serving of ground nutmeg seed provides you with 2.9 grams of dietary fiber -- 8 percent of the daily recommended intake for men and 11 percent for women, as set by the Institute of Medicine.
Copper and Manganese
Nutmeg seed also offers health benefits by boosting your mineral intake, particularly copper and manganese. Both minerals help keep your skeleton strong and heathy. Manganese also helps you synthesize sex hormones, while copper boosts your immune system. A serving of ground nutmeg seed contains 0.41 milligram of manganese -- 23 and 18 percent of the recommended daily manganese intakes for women and men, respectively -- as well as 144 micrograms of copper, or 16 percent of the recommended daily intake.
Potential Cancer-Fighting Benefits
Nutmeg seeds also house chemicals that might combat cancer growth. One study, published in the "Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand" in 2007, found that unknown compounds in nutmeg were able to fight the growth of leukemia cells in test-tube studies. An additional test-tube study, published in the May 2005 issue of "Toxicology Letters," found that nutmeg promoted brain cancer cell death. As of September 2013, it's not yet known exactly how well nutmeg seed fights cancer development, but it might offer some anti-cancer benefits.
For superior flavor, purchase whole nutmeg seeds and grate them using a fine grater before each use, rather than purchasing preground or grated nutmeg seed from the store. Use nutmeg to add flavor to baked goods -- such as pumpkin or banana whole-grain muffins -- or add it to smoothies. A mixture of unsweetened almond milk, Greek yogurt, frozen banana slices, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger makes for a festive "gingerbread" smoothie. Alternatively, use nutmeg to flavor your coffee.
Everything in Moderation
Talk to your doctor before taking nutmeg as a dietary supplement or adding large amounts of it to your diet. Myristica oil, the natural oil found in nutmeg, can cause adverse reactions if consumed in large amounts. If you develop symptoms of Myristica oil poisoning -- which can include digestive upset, flushed skin, chest pain, confusion and hallucinations -- seek immediate medical attention.
- Clark College: Trimyristin: A Fat from Nutmeg
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Spices, Nutmeg, Ground
- Linus Pauling Institute: Fiber
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Copper
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Manganese
- Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand: Myristica Fragrans Houtt. Methanolic Extract Induces Apoptosis in a Human Leukemia Cell Line Through SIRT1 mRNA Downregulation
- Toxicology Letters: Myristicin-Induced Neurotoxicity in Human Neuroblastoma SK-N-SH Cells
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Myristica Oil Poisoning