Sesame seeds grow in pods and come from the Sesamum indicum plant, which is native to India and Africa. There are about 50 to 100 or more seeds in each pod. When they ripen, the pods open at the slightest touch, releasing the seeds. The expression “open sesame” might have been inspired by this. However, scientists have come up with shatter-resistant varieties, because this trait contributes to harvest losses.
Sesame Seeds Overview
Sesame seeds have been used in folk medicines for thousands of years. In Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient Indian healing system, the oil of the sesame seeds is placed in the nostrils to relieve anxiety and insomnia. The oil is also used to massage the head to relieve headache. In traditional medicine, the oil is also used as an antibacterial mouthwash and a topical treatment for skin conditions. Moreover, to treat dizziness, tinnitus, and blurred vision, Chinese herbalists suggests eating black sesame seeds.
You may have seen sesame seeds on top of your hamburger buns, breadsticks, bagels, or crackers. These tiny seeds are actually packed with a lot of nutrients. They are a great source of protein, copper, manganese, iron, zinc, vitamin B1, vitamin E, thiamin, calcium, magnesium, phytosterols (predominantly B-sitosterol), phosphorus, molybdenum, selenium, and fiber. Sesame seeds also contain lignans, the majority of which are sesamin and sesamolin. Lignans are plant compounds that have antioxidant and estrogen properties. Both are believed to help reduce the risk of cancer and improve health.
The seeds are either hulled or unhulled. Typically, sesame seeds are hulled, meaning their outer husks are removed. Hulled seeds have an off-white color. However, they turn brown when roasted, and this also gives them that nutty flavor. With unhulled seeds, the outer, edible husk remain intact. The hull gives the seeds their light brown skin. Unhulled seeds are crunchier compared to hulled seeds. They also taste slightly bitter due to the oxalates in the hull.
Here are some sesame seed health benefits.
Sesame Seed Health Benefits
1. May Lower Blood Pressure
Hypertension poses a major risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Sesame seeds are rich in magnesium that helps lower blood pressure. Magnesium aids in dissolving blood clots, dilating blood vessels, and preventing arrhythmia.
In addition, antioxidants such as lignans and vitamin E present in sesame seeds may help in preventing plaque buildup in the arteries. This can potentially maintain healthy blood pressure.
Moreover, in a study from Thailand published in the Nutritional Journal in 2011, people with prehypertension consumed 2.52 grams of powdered black sesame seeds in capsule form for 4 weeks. The participants who took the capsules had a 6% decrease in systolic blood pressure — the top number of a blood pressure reading — compared to the placebo group.
There is about 351 mg of magnesium for every 100 grams of sesame seeds. Depending on age and gender, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium for adults is 310-420 mg. Get your recommended intake of magnesium by adding sesame seeds into your diet.
2. An Excellent Source of Plant Protein
Protein is essential to our body and everyone can benefit from adding some protein to their regular diet. It is used to make bones, hair, nails, skin, and even cells and muscles. Regular consumption of protein may also prevent illnesses, such as colon cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes.
It is suggested that you choose hulled, roasted sesame seeds to get the most out of their protein content. The process of hulling and roasting lowers oxalates and phytates — compounds that hinder your digestion and absorption of protein.
An ounce of sesame seeds contains 4.7 grams of protein, making it a great source of vegetarian protein. An average person should aim to consume about 50-64 grams of protein per day in a 2,000-calorie diet, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
3. May Help Prevent Type Diabetes
In a study published in 2011 in Clinical Nutrition, peole having type 2 diabetes were given diabetes medication, sesame oil, or both. Those who were given the combination had the most blood sugar reduction over 60 days. Because of this, the researchers concluded that the sesame oil had a “synergistic effect” with the medication.
Additionally, a study in 2016 published in the American Journal of Medicine reported that a blend of sesame oil and rice bran oil helped reduce the blood sugar levels of people with type 2 diabetes.
4. Rich in Antioxidants
According to studies, consumption of sesame seeds can increase the overall amount of antioxidants activity in your blood, including vitamin E, lignans (like sesamol), and enzymes (like glutathione peroxidase) that fight oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is a chemical reaction that damages the cells and increases the risks of many chronic diseases.
Moreover, sesame seeds contain gamma-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E that functions as an antioxidant which is especially protective against heart disease.
In addition, sesamol has been shown to protect DNA damage caused by radiation. In one study, sesamol extended the lives of mice that were being treated with radiation.
Antioxidants can also reverse the signs of aging, giving you beautiful and youthful skin.
5. May Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Sesame seeds may help lower elevated triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. A 2006 study from Taiwan published in The Journal of Nutrition found that postmenopausal women had a 10 % reduction in bad cholesterol after consuming about 2 ounces of sesame powder a day for five weeks. In addition, another study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in 2012 reported that people who consumed about 1½ ounces of white sesame seeds every day for 60 days had lower bad cholesterol levels.
Sesame seeds contain 41% polyunsaturated fat, 39% monounsaturated fat, and 15% saturated fat. Research shows that consuming more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat than saturated fat may reduce cholesterol and heart disease risk. Additionally, both the lignan sesamin and the phytosterols present in sesame seeds help block the absorption of bad cholesterol in the body. Lower cholesterol means a lower risk of having a stroke, heart attack, or heart diseases.