Rich in antioxidants, annatto seeds are a great remedy for many health problems
The 8 oil seeds against diabetes and heart disease
Annatto is known for its many uses: it is extracted from the seeds of the achiote plant and is widely used in the kitchen, both as a spice and in the form of natural food coloring. In ancient times it was used a lot as a cosmetic for the traditional face painting of some indigenous peoples and as a natural remedy for various ailments.
These small heart-shaped seeds have a characteristic red color, which derives from the abundant presence of carotenoids – pigments in which foods such as carrots and tomatoes are rich. Their sweet and slightly peppery flavor makes them ideal for adding an extra touch to many dishes: the spice produced from annatto seeds is in fact used as a condiment.
As already mentioned, annatto is an excellent source of carotenoids and other important antioxidants such as flavonoids and tocotrienols. Their action against free radicals and oxidative stress is now well known: as evidenced by numerous studies, these substances can prevent the onset of chronic diseases such as heart problems, diabetes and some cancers. They also play a key role in protecting vision, since they reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness among the elderly).
The antioxidants contained in annatto seeds could be an excellent ally in the fight against cancer. Several clinical trials, including the one published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, have highlighted their effectiveness in suppressing the growth of cancer cells and inducing apoptosis, with particular regard to cancer of the prostate, pancreas, liver and of the skin. Of course, further human studies are needed before we can confirm the antitumor action of annatto, but the first results are promising.
The extracts of these seeds also have antimicrobial efficacy: some research has shown how they can inhibit the growth of numerous bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. Both as a dye and in the form of powder, annatto could have a future in the field of food preservation. Finally, its anti-inflammatory action is being studied – in some cases this substance has proved useful in reducing inflammation markers in the body.
Annatto is not recommended in those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, since it can trigger its symptoms. It is also contraindicated in pregnancy and lactation, because there is insufficient evidence of its safety. Its consumption could cause an allergic reaction with typical symptoms (itching, swelling, stomach pain and low blood pressure). Always consult your doctor to find out more, and stop taking it immediately in case of unwanted effects.