Sesame seeds are one of the oldest and indispensable condiments ever known to mankind. They are versatile, fragrant, and are nutty variants. The seeds add a crunch to a variety of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. Moreover, it is also used as a cooking oil and to make sauces and dressings. Sesame seeds are known for their food flavor-enhancing abilities too.
The potent nutritional benefits of sesame seeds include their ability to improve heart health, lower blood pressure, build strong bones, improve male fertility, and manage diabetes. They also help cure sleep disorders, improve digestion, reduce inflammation, boost respiratory health, aid in dental care, and treat depression and chronic stress.
What are Sesame Seeds?
Sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum) are tiny edible seeds of a plant of the Sesamum genus, native to both India and Africa. They are considered the oldest oilseed crop in the world and have been cultivated for more than 3,500 years. These seeds have a nutty flavor and they can be purchased either shelled or unshelled. They are commonly added to salads as a topping for bread and grain products, crackers, sushi, cakes, soups, or as breading for fish and meat.
Also, sesame oil, derived from the seeds, is a rich source of nutrients with both laxative and emollient properties. The seeds themselves are very small, only 3-4mm long and 2mm wide, yet 3.85 million metric tons are produced every year. The seeds are initially found in a black hull inside a pod. Once they are removed, they must be stripped of their shells. They come in a wide variety of colors, depending on the variety or strain of the sesame plant.
Nutrition Value of Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are a rich source of natural oils, lignans, antioxidants, protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, B-vitamins, and vitamin E according to the USDA. Additionally, these tiny seeds are packed with potent amino acids like tryptophan and fat-burning polyphenols like sesamin and sesamol. Researcher Dr. Fereidoon Shahidi with over 600 published research papers, demonstrated the considerable antioxidant activity of sesame products in one of his studies in the journal Food Chemistry.
Benefits of Sesame Seeds
The wide range of health benefits of these seeds is explained in greater detail below. Sesame seeds contain zinc, a vital component in the formation of collagen, which strengthens the muscle tissue, hair, and skin. Also, sesame oil contains vitamin E, which reduces the appearance of burns and marks on the skin, as well as helps avoid signs of premature aging.
- Hair Health
Sesame seeds are rich in plant polyphenols, which help promote hair health. Sesame seed oil is often massaged into the scalp to reduce premature greying and boost hair growth because of the presence of vitamins and minerals. The amino acids and antioxidants in this oil help return the shine in dull hair.
- Elevates Heart Health
Natural oil-soluble plant lignans present in these seeds help in the reduction of hypertension, according to several research studies. This, in turn, helps reduce the strain on your cardiovascular system and prevents various cardiac conditions. A research study published in the journal Nutrition Review states that these bioactive phenolic plant compounds are in the highest concentration in flax seeds and sesame seeds. Furthermore, magnesium has long been known as a vasodilator (an agent that reduces blood pressure) and these seeds are packed with this essential mineral. Sesame seeds contain up to 25% of your daily requirement of magnesium in a single serving.
- High in Fiber
Sesame seeds are packed with a significant amount of fiber, an important element in healthy digestion. It can reduce conditions like constipation and diarrhea, while simultaneously protecting the health of your colon and reducing the risk of gastrointestinal diseases. Fiber also works beneficially for your heart, by scraping out dangerous LDL cholesterol from arteries and blood vessels, thereby acting as a protecting agent against atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
- Manages Diabetes
Sesame seeds contain magnesium, an important mineral, that aids in reducing the chances of type-2 diabetes. It also regulates blood pressure and helps improve insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, it has been shown that sesame seed oil positively affects the impact of various medications like glibenclamide in patients suffering from type-2 diabetes. It improves the medication’s functionality and regulates the insulin and glucose levels in the body. This process helps to manage the symptoms of diabetes, as per a research published in the journal Clinical Nutrition.
- Boosts Bone Health
Sesame is the richest source of most of the inorganic nutrients, says a report published in the Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society. The impressive levels of essential minerals like zinc, calcium, and phosphorus can be a major boost for your bone health. These minerals are integral parts in creating new bone matter and strengthening and repairing bones weakened by injury or the onset of debilitating bone conditions like osteoporosis.