Nutmeg: Health Benefits, Nutrition, and Uses

Nutmeg comes from the seed of the Myristica fragrans tree. Indonesia produces the majority of the world's nutmeg. The spice flavors many dishes, both savory and sweet, in cuisine across the globe.

It is sold either ground or in whole seeds.  Both nutmeg butter and nutmeg essential oil are also widely available.  

In addition to being delicious, nutmeg offers many health benefits. However, you should never consume more than is ordinarily used in food preparation. In large quantities, nutmeg can induce hallucinations. It is highly toxic and can even be fatal.

Health Benefits

Nutmeg is a rich source of antioxidants, which help protect against the signs of aging and serious conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and liver disease.

Nutmeg also may provide other health benefits such as:

Dental Health

Nutmeg oil is used in several dental products. The spice has antibacterial properties that have proven particularly effective against oral pathogens that cause disease and bad breath.

Improved Mood

One study found that nutmeg acted as a potential antidepressant in male rats, and the spice has been used for its invigorating properties in folk medicine.

Better Sleep

A little nutmeg has been shown to aid sleep, both in duration and quality. However, higher quality, human studies are needed to validate this effect.

Nutrition

Nutmeg is rich in fiber, which helps keep the digestive system healthy and prevent blood sugar from spiking.

It’s also a source of:

Nutrients per Serving 

A 1 tsp serving of nutmeg contains:

Portion Sizes

Nutmeg is safe in small amounts. However, as little as 2 teaspoons or 5 grams can cause some symptoms of toxicity. At larger amounts, symptoms become worse and serious complications or death can occur. 

Cases of nutmeg poisoning generally involve either people who try to use the spice as a recreational hallucinogenic or young children who take it unaware.

How to Use Nutmeg

Whole nutmeg can be freshly ground and added to dishes with a microplane or grater, but the spice is also available already ground. 

Nutmeg is a common ingredient in many cuisines, including European and Indian. There are many ways to add nutmeg to your diet, including:

  • Add it to coffee, hot chocolate, tea, or warm milk
  • Use it to season vegetables such as cauliflower and sweet potato
  • Sprinkle over oatmeal or other breakfast cereals
  • Sprinkle over fruit for an added kick
  • Bake with it. Nutmeg is a key ingredient in many baked goods
  • Add to seasonal beverages such as eggnog, mulled cider, and mulled wine
  • Use it in fall dishes, such as ones that feature pumpkin or other winter squashes
  • Try cooking dishes from Southern and Southeastern Asia or visit a new restaurant that offers the cuisine. The spice comes from Indonesia, and it features prominently in the food from this part of the world
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 07, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine: “Evaluation of the anti-depressant activity of Myristica fragans (Nutmeg) in male rats.”

Drug Invention Today: “Antioxidant, antimicrobial, and health benefits of nutmeg.”

Journal of Ethnopharmacology: “The pharmacological effects of a ligroin extract of nutmeg (Myristica fragans

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Nutmeg.”

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Antibacterial Activity of Myristica fragans against Oral Pathogens.”

Scientia Agriculturae: “Health and Nutritional Benefits of nutmeg (myristica fragrans).

Toxicology Investigation: “Nutmeg Poisonings: A Retrospective Review of 10 Years Experience from the Illinois Poison Center, 2001-2011.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Get Diet and Fitness Tips In Your Inbox

Eat better and exercise smarter. Sign up for the Food & Fitness newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.