Open Sesame (Seeds) – Unlocking the Nutritive Benefits
Sesame seeds with their delicate nutty flavour and distinctive taste are generally sprinkled over toasts, biscuits, breads, cakes, salads and stir-fries. Besides culinary uses, the seeds, owing to their curative and nutritive properties are used in various traditional medicines to cure number of ailments.
Sesame is a variable annual herb, one to two meters tall, covered with glandular hairs and with an unpleasant pungent smell. Depending upon the variety, they come in different colours, such as white, yellow, black and red. A well-known oil seed sesame seeds are small, smooth oval seeds with a nutty taste and a subtle crunch.
Sesamum indicum or Sesame seeds are said to be one of the worlds’ first spices known to man. The earliest recorded use of sesame seed as a spice is traced to an Assyrian legend, which claimed that before creating the earth the gods met and drank wine made from sesame seeds. According to early Hindu legends, sesame seeds represented a symbol of immortality. A main spice and food source throughout Asia and parts of Europe and Africa in many places, Sesame seeds are a culinary delight having various medicinal uses. The addition of sesame seeds to baked goods can be traced back to ancient Egyptian times from an ancient tomb painting that depicts a baker adding the seeds to bread dough. The seeds are usually harvested in early autumn, shortly after turning ripe, and allowed to dry in the sun before being prepared for herbal remedies.
Traditional Uses of Sesame Seeds
In Middle Eastern cuisine, a smooth, creamy paste made of toasted, ground hulled sesame seeds called tahini is a centuries-old traditional ingredient used to flavour most dishes. The Japanese, Chinese and the Koreans cuisines used sesame seeds in a number of ways to add taste an extra zing and flavour to their dishes.
Sesame Seeds Nutrition Facts
Highly nutritive, sesame seeds are very rich sources of minerals such as manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, selenium, iron, phosphorus, zinc and dietary fibre. Vitamins like E and B1 (thiamin) are found in large quantities in sesame seeds. Other valuable nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, amino acids, sucrose, fructose and maltose. Low in cholesterol with high doses of antioxidants, sesame seeds contain two exceptional compounds known as sesamin and sesamolin, belonging to a group of special valuable fibres called lignans, beneficial for overall health and well-being. Compared to the hulled ones unhulled sesame seeds are known to be more nutritious. .
|Sesame Seeds Nutrients||Amount-100 g|
|Calories From Carbohydrate||95|
|Calories From Fat||416|
|Calories From Protein||62|
|Total Carbohydrates||23 g|
|Dietary Fibre||12 g|
|Fats & Fatty Acids|
|Total Fat||50 g|
|Saturated Fat||7 g|
|Monounsaturated Fat||19 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||22 g|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||376 mg|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||21 g|
|Vitamin A||9 IU|
|Vitamin E||250 mcg|
|Vitamin B6||790 mcg|
|Pantothenic Acid||50 mcg|
Health Benefits of Sesame Seeds
Mono Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs)
The fat in sesame seeds is 38% monounsaturated, and 44% polyunsaturated which equals 82% unsaturated fatty acids. Rich in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids known as oleic acid, sesame seeds help lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increases HDL or “good cholesterol” in the blood promoting healthy lipid profile.
- Rich in Magnesium offering 351 mg per 100 grams sesame seeds offer numerous benefits.
They help regularize the neuromuscular activities of the heart, enabling a normal rhythmic pattern of heartbeat, preventing possibilities of a heart attack or stroke. The Magnesium content also facilitates quick recovery of an individual who had suffered an attack.
- Magnesium helps lower high blood pressure.
- According to studies, magnesium is important in the secretion and function of insulin. Hence, a diet rich in magnesium lower chances of developing type2 diabetes.
- Magnesium also prevents the narrowing of the airway causing asthma.
- Magnesium prevents the trigeminal blood vessel spasm that triggers migraine attacks.
- Magnesium helps restore normal sleep patterns in menopausal women.
- Magnesium along with calcium keeps the bones strong.
- A quarter cup (36 g) of sesame seeds provides around 74 percent of the daily value of copper.
Copper is known for its effectiveness in a number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzyme systems. Hence, the trace mineral helps in reducing pain and swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Copper plays an important role in providing structure, strength and elasticity in blood vessels, bones and joints as it boosts the activity of an enzyme known as lysyl oxidase, which is vital for the cross-linking of collagen and elastin.
- Copper alongside manganese is an indispensable cofactor of a crucial oxidative enzyme called superoxide dismutase, which helps neutralize free radicals produced within the mitochondria.
- Copper is essential for proper utilization of iron in the red blood cells.
- A quarter cup of sesame seeds provides around 18 percent of the daily value for zinc.
- A vital nutrient, zinc boosts bone mineral density and helps prevent osteoporosis at the hip and spine.
- Zinc helps in healing wounds and in strengthening the immune system of the body
- Since a handful of sesame seeds contain more calcium than a glass of milk, they are beneficial for maintaining bones and preventing disorders related to week bones and teeth.
- Calcium prevents risk of colon cancer as they protect the cells in the colon from cancer-causing chemicals.
- Calcium prevents bone loss occurring during menopause or because of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Besides preventing migraines, the mineral also helps reduce PMS symptoms during the second half of the menstrual cycle.
- Due to a considerable difference between the calcium content of hulled and unhulled sesame seeds, there is a little bit of controversy regarding the calcium content. Although the hulled sesame seeds contain about 60 percent more calcium than the unhulled variety, the greater part of the calcium in the hulls is in the form calcium oxalate, which is a less absorbable form of calcium.
A quarter cup of sesame seeds provides around 29 percent of the daily value for iron, which helps the process of respiration and synthesizing haemoglobin in the blood.
Sesame seeds provide the highest total phytosterol content of 400-413 mg per 100 grams, which offers the greatest benefits. These compounds, found in abundance help reduce blood levels of cholesterol, enhance the immune response and decrease risk of certain cancers.
Sesame seeds are very good sources of B-complex vitamins such as niacin, folic acid, thiamin (vitamin B1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), and riboflavin. 100 g of sesame seeds contain about 25% of recommended daily value of folic acid crucial for DNA synthesis and when taken regularly by expectant mothers help prevent neural tube defects in the baby.
Sesame seeds contain another B-complex vitamin, niacin offering 28% of daily-required levels of niacin per 100 grams. This vitamin augments GABA activity within the brain, which helps reduce anxiety and neurosis.
Dietary Fibre and Protein
Sesame seeds provide the required protein to the body while the dietary fibre help maintain good digestive health adding roughage in the intestines and prevent constipation.
Other health benefits associated with sesame seeds include preventing Alzheimer’s disease and cataract, reducing chronic pain and muscle spasms, slowing the aging process, inducing better sleep, increasing vitality and alertness and treating chronic diseases.
Sesame oil is used widely for cosmetic reasons. The oil is good for the skin and hair and treats cuts, burns and wounds.
Sesame seeds may cause an allergic reaction to some people. Because of its high caloric contents daily consumption of sesame seeds add on those extra kilos. Individuals on an oxalate diet must exercise caution as the hulls of these seed contain oxalates in the form of calcium oxalate. Therefore must be consumed in moderate amounts.