Dill (Anethum graveolens) is an herb in European and Asian cuisines.
Also called dill weed, the plant has slender stems with alternating soft leaves and brown, flat, oval seeds. While the leaves have a sweet, grassy flavor, dill seeds are more aromatic, with a slight citrus flavor similar to caraway seeds.
As an herb and spice, dill is commonly used to elevate the flavor of various dishes. It’s often paired with salmon, potatoes, and yogurt-based sauces.
In addition to culinary uses, dill is rich in several nutrients and has traditionally been used to treat various ailments, including digestive issues, colic in infants, and bad breath.
This article reviews the nutritional and health benefits of dill and ways to use it in cooking.
One cup (9 grams) of fresh dill sprigs provides approximately:
- Calories: 4
- Vitamin C: 8% of the daily value
- Manganese: 5% of the daily value
- Vitamin A: 4% of the daily value
- Folate: 3% of the daily value
- Iron: 3% of the daily value
Fresh dill is very low in calories yet a surprisingly good source of several essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin A.
Vitamin A is essential for maintaining vision and supporting a healthy immune system. It also plays a role in male and female reproduction.
Similarly, vitamin C is vital for your immune system and helps with bone formation, wound healing, and metabolism.
Additionally, it has been shown to be a potent antioxidant that helps protect your cells against damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals.
Dill is also a good source of manganese. While needed in very small amounts, it is an essential mineral that supports the normal functioning of your brain, nervous system, and sugar and fat metabolism.
Furthermore, fresh dill provides 1–2% of the daily value for calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, and zinc.
However, as fresh dill is usually consumed in smaller quantities than 1 cup (9 grams), the amount of nutrients you get from sprinkling it over your food will be considerably less.
As for dill seeds, they have many similar nutritional benefits. One tablespoon (6.6 grams) of seeds provides 8% of the daily value for calcium, 6% of the daily value for iron, and 1–5% of the daily value for magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium.
Summary: Fresh dill is low in calories yet a good source of many essential nutrients, including vitamin C, magnesium, and vitamin A.
Potential health benefits of dill
With its name derived from the Old Norse word “dilla,” which means to soothe, dill has been used since ancient times to treat colic in infants and digestive diseases and help with breastfeeding.
While these more traditional uses have not been supported by research, dill has been shown to have other potential health benefits.
Dill is rich in antioxidants
Antioxidants are naturally occurring compounds that help protect cells against damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals.
As a result, research suggests that consuming foods rich in antioxidants may help reduce chronic inflammation and prevent or even treat certain conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain forms of cancer.
Both the seeds and leaves of the dill plant have been found to be rich in several plant compounds with antioxidant properties, including:
- Flavonoids. These plant compounds have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer. They may also play an important role in brain health.
- Terpenoids. These compounds are found in essential oils and may protect against liver, heart, kidney, and brain diseases.
- Tannins. Responsible for bitterness in many plant foods, tannins have been shown to have potent antioxidant properties and antimicrobial effects.
Additionally, dill is a good source of vitamin C, which has also been shown to have powerful antioxidant properties.
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Dill may benefit heart health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. However, the World Health Organization estimates that nearly 75% of heart disease cases could be prevented by reducing risk factors like poor diet, smoking, and lack of exercise.
Additional risk factors for heart disease include elevated blood pressure, triglyceride, LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and chronic inflammation.
Flavonoids, like those found in dill, have been shown to protect heart health due to their potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Furthermore, animal studies have suggested that dill extract may have cholesterol- and triglyceride-lowering effects. However, research in humans is more mixed.
One study in 91 people with high total cholesterol and triglyceride levels found that taking 6 dill extract tablets daily for 2 months significantly improved total cholesterol and triglyceride levels but did not change HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Yet, another study in 150 people with high cholesterol and triglyceride levels observed no significant changes in cholesterol or triglyceride levels after 6 weeks of daily dill tablet intake.
However, it’s important to note that most studies looking at the effects of dill on heart health have used extracts. As a result, it’s unclear how fresh or dried dill in your diet could affect heart health.
Overall, while the antioxidants in dill extracts may benefit overall heart health, more studies in humans are needed to assess the effectiveness of dill on cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Dill may help lower blood sugar levels
Chronic blood sugar levels are concerning as they can increase your risk of conditions like insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.
Dill has been suggested to have blood-sugar-lowering effects.
In fact, several studies in animals with diabetes have shown a significant improvement in fasting blood sugar levels with daily doses of dill extract. Still, research in humans is limited.
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Dill may have anticancer properties
Monoterpenes are a class of terpenes, naturally occurring plant compounds linked to anticancer, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.
They’re commonly found in essential oils of plants like dill and have been associated with anticancer properties.
More specifically, d-limonene is a monoterpene type that may help prevent and treat lung, breast, and colon cancer.
As dill is high in monoterpenes, particularly d-limonene, it may have anticancer properties. However, there’s currently no research on the effectiveness of dill or dill extract on the risk or treatment of cancer.
Other potential benefits of dill
Dill may benefit your health in the following ways as well:
- Antibacterial properties. Essential oils in dill have antibacterial effects which fight potentially harmful bacteria, such as Klebsiella pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus.
- Bone health. Dill contains calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus — all important for bone health.
- Menstrual cramps. Essential oils in dill may help relieve pain from cramps during your period. However, research is currently limited and mixed.
Summary: Dill is rich in various plant compounds that may have numerous benefits for health, including protection against heart disease and certain forms of cancer. Additionally, dill may help lower blood sugar levels, but more human studies are needed.
Potential side effects of dill
Dill is generally safe for consumption. However, in rare cases, it has been shown to cause allergic reactions, vomiting, diarrhea, an itchy mouth, swollen red bumps on the tongue, and throat swelling.
Additionally, it’s recommended to avoid dill pills or extracts during pregnancy and breastfeeding as there’s limited research on their safety.
Summary: Culinary uses of dill are considered safe for most individuals, except in rare cases when it could trigger an allergic response. Additionally, pregnant or breastfeeding women are recommended to avoid dill pills or extracts.
Uses for dill
Dill is a flavorful ingredient that’s easy to add to your food.
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Here are some ways to add fresh dill to your meals:
- Use it as a garnish for soups or roasted vegetables.
- Sprinkle it on top of cold cucumber salads.
- Use it in potato salads or on baked or roasted potatoes.
- Place it over gravlax.
- Stir it into yogurt-based dips like tzatziki.
- Chop and add it to salads.
- Use it to flavor fish, lamb, or egg dishes.
- Add it to baked bread.
- Incorporate it into sauces, marinades, or salad dressings.
Dried dill can also flavor dips, marinades, and potato, chicken, or tuna salads.
As for the seeds, dill seeds can be used whole or crushed and added to bread, soups, or vegetable dishes. They can also be used to make dill pickles.
Summary: Dill is a versatile herb in various dishes, such as potato salad, tzatziki sauce, or over fish. Dill seeds can be used as a spice to flavor foods like pickles or bread.
How to store dill
To store fresh dill, lightly spritz the leaves with fresh water, wrap the sprigs loosely in a paper towel, and then place them in a zip-top plastic bag.
Store the dill in the vegetable drawer of your fridge for up to 1 week. For longer storage, you can also freeze fresh dill by rinsing and placing the sprigs in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer.
Once frozen, transfer the sprigs to a freezer-safe bag and return to the freezer for up to 6 months for the best flavor.
Frozen dill can be used in cooking without thawing first. Dried dill and dill seeds should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for 6 months to 1 year.
Summary: When stored properly, fresh dill will be kept in the fridge for up to 1 week and up to 6 months in the freezer. Dried dill and dill seeds should keep for 6 months to 1 year.
Rich in antioxidants and a good source of vitamin C, magnesium, and vitamin A, dill may have several benefits for health, including protection against heart disease and cancer.
However, it’s important to remember that most studies looking at the benefits of dill use dill extracts. Therefore, whether dietary use of fresh or dried dill would have the same effects is unclear.
In any case, the seeds and leaves of dill can add flavor and a pop of color to various dishes. When stored properly, fresh dill can last up to 1 week in the fridge and several months in the freezer.
Overall, dill is a flavorful herb and spice that can add a nutritional boost to your diet.