What are Sesame Seeds?
Sesame seeds known scientifically as Sesamum indicum are an extremely important ingredient in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine. Anybody who has ever eaten humus will be familiar with one of the main ingredients – tahini a delicious paste, with a peanut butter type flavor, made out of sesame seeds and olive oil.
Sesame seeds are actually one of the oldest cultivated condiments. They have long been valued for their nutty flavor and crunchy texture but have also been used to make a healthy oil which is almost immune to rancidity. But that is not all; sesame seeds and oil are extremely nutritious and healthy.
Adding them to your diet can have a great impact on your health as you are about to find out.
Sesame seeds are packed with nutrition. A quarter cup serving of the seeds contains just over 200 calories and large amounts of copper equivalent to 163% of your rda.
The seeds are also very rich in other important minerals like manganese, phosphorus, iron, calcium, zinc and selenium. If you are lacking fiber in your diet, a quarter cup serving can help you on your way and provides around 17% of your recommended daily value.
As well as their healthy mineral content, sesame seeds contain a number of other valuable nutrients including vitamin B6, thiamin, folate and tryptophan. The seeds are also rich in a substance called sesamin which has excellent anti-inflammatory properties and recent research has indicated may be useful in the fight against cancer.
Benefits of Sesame Seeds
1) Cholesterol Reduction and Heart Health
Studies done recently into the health benefits of sesame seeds and oil have found that they can benefit your heart in a variety of ways. Phytonutrients in the shape of antioxidants and fatty acids found in the seeds exert potent cholesterol reducing effects.
When compared with other seeds, legumes and grains, sesame seeds have a greater effect on cholesterol than the others. The plant sterols in the seeds help control the absorption of cholesterol by displacing the cholesterol in the intestines. (1)
When tested along with 27 other seeds and nuts, sesame had the highest level of phytosterol. (2) The phytosterol found in the seeds is a particular type of sterol known as beta-sitosterol and is linked to improved arterial function as well as better prostate health.
Research has also demonstrated that lignans found in sesame seeds like sesamin can help to reduce cholesterol levels. Just 50 grams of powdered sesame seeds taken over the course of five weeks helped reduce overall cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol. (3)
2) Blood Pressure
As well as their antioxidant benefits and their ability to keep cholesterol in check, sesame seeds and oil can help reduce blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension.
In a study published in 2016, the effects of sesame seed oil on group of adults with high blood pressure were evaluated. The researchers found that the oil had a significant beneficial effect in reducing blood pressure naturally. (4)
3) Hormone Balance
Sesame seeds and oil may also have a beneficial effect on the sex hormones of women especially those who have gone through menopause. In a study published in 2009, consuming sesame had a positive effect on the antioxidant status and lipid levels in women with a resultant benefit to their sex hormones. (5)
Sesamin – a lignan found in the seeds is converted in the intestines to a phytoestrogen compound called enteroclatone which has an estrogenic action on the body. These activities are similar to the ones exerted by flax seed lignans.
Because sesame seeds are so full of valuable nutrients, they are regarded as a great choice for women during pregnancy and immediately after giving birth.
A number of studies including a few very recent ones have demonstrated that the lignans found in sesame seeds may help protect against cancer.
A study conducted in 2005 set out to investigate the effects of 25 grams of sesame seeds and flaxseeds given to post menopausal women for a month. The results indicated that there was an increase in lignans in the women who consumed the seeds. This indicates that both types of seed can be converted by the intestinal flora helping to protect the colon from oxidation and cancer. (6)
Another study published in 2012 indicates that lignans in the diet can help reduce the risk of breast cancer. The researchers traced the lignan consumption of 611 healthy adult women and 683 with cancer of the breast. They found that those who consumed the highest amount of lignans had almost half as much risk of developing cancer. (7)
5) Fat Burning
The healthy fats contained in sesame seeds and oil help to satiate the appetite. This basically means that eating sesame seeds can help you to feel full for longer and less likely to snack on the unhealthy types of food that make you gain weight.
A cursory search in the benefits of sesamin found in sesame seeds will garner plenty of hits from bodybuilding sites. That is because lignans like sesamin help stimulate the body’s metabolism and its ability to burn up its stores of fat. Studies done on animals have demonstrated that lignans like sesamin can enhance the liver’s activity and help the fat burning process.
6) Nutrient Absorption
The lignans present in sesame seeds are especially helpful when it comes to improved nutrient absorption. Studies have demonstrated that sesamin and other compounds help the body absorb various nutrients especially vitamin E but also vitamins A and D as well as various other minerals and antioxidants.
Simply adding sesame seeds to your diet or using sesame oil can help your body get more value from the food you consume.
A recent study published in 2014 found that supplementing with sesame seeds had a positive effect on the lipid profiles and oxidative stress in patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee.
The study which involved 50 patients divided them into two groups one of which received 40 grams of sesame a day to supplement their regular medication. After two months, antioxidant capacity and lipid profiles were measured.
The researchers found that sesame seed supplementation had a beneficial effect on both oxidative stress and the lipid profile of the patients indicating that it may help reduce stress in osteoarthritis patients. (8)
Is Sesame Seed Oil Good for You?
The simple answer is yes. It is very good for you. Sesame seed oil is highly nutritious and contains all of the goodness of the seeds themselves. It can be used in cooking but can also be applied topically to the skin with some great effects.
Sesame Seed Oil Skin Benefits
Sesame seed oil is full of ingredients that can help moisturize and heal the skin and is used as an ingredient in many cosmetic products. The oil can penetrate deeply into the skin’s pores and is ideal for massage. Here are some of the ways sesame oil can help the skin:
- Bacterial Infections : sesame seed oil is antibacterial and can be used to prevent infections taking hold following a wound. It can also be used to treat chronic skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
- Helps repair damaged cells: Sesame oil is easily absorbed and can help to repair damaged skin and improve circulation in the skin.
- Anti-Aging : Sesame seed oil has excellent antioxidant properties that can hep rejuvenate the skin and prevent signs of aging like wrinkles and other blemishes.
- Moisturizer : sesame seed oil has a great moisturizing effect on the skin keeping it looking and feeling supple and healthy.