Sesame seeds, popularly known as ‘Til‘ in Hindi, ‘Nuvvulu‘ in Telugu, ‘Ellu‘ (Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada), ‘Teel‘ in Marathi and ‘Til‘ in Bengali are the oldest condiment known to mankind. They are nutty and fragrant seed variants. They add a lovely crunch to many Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. Both these races are known for their longevity (1).
The benefits of sesame are not just culinary, but this nutrient-dense condiment is good for our bodies as well. Sesame seeds include a combination of vitamins and minerals and are one of the healthiest foods in the world.
Let’s look at how sesame is beneficial for us and how we can include it in our daily diet.
What Are Sesame Seeds?
- Sesame seeds are probably one of the first oil seeds known to mankind.
- Sesame plant is a flowering plant belonging to the Pedaliaceae family. These seeds have the highest oil content among all seeds and a delicate, nutty flavor that becomes more pronounced when they are roasted under low temperature for a few minutes.
- These seeds can be consumed in the raw or dried form, or even as roasted snacks. They are used as an ingredient in several cuisines.
- Dry roasted sesame seeds are ground with olive into a thin, light brown colored paste, known as ‘Tahini’, which is a popular Middle Eastern dip. In Europe, they are commonly used in the manufacture of margarine.
- There are several varieties of sesame seeds depending on the type of cultivar such as white, black and brown seeds.
- White sesame seeds have higher iron content than the black ones and are mostly used as ingredients in food or in the form of oil.
- Black sesame seeds are more flavorful and have a stronger aroma than white or brown sesame seeds and are preferably used in medicines. They contain 60% more calcium than the white ones.
- White sesame seeds are hulled, whereas the black and brown ones retain their hulls.
Health Benefits Of Sesame Seeds
In addition to their culinary uses, these seeds possess nutritive, preventive, and curative properties, which render them usable in traditional medicines. Sesame seed oil is a rich source of phytonutrients such as omega-6 fatty acids, flavonoid phenolic antioxidants, vitamins and dietary fiber. These seeds, thus, offer a variety of benefits. The health benefits of sesame seeds include the following:
1. High Protein Vegetarian Diet
Sesame seeds are a good source of dietary protein, with high-quality amino acids making up 20% of the seed. Thus, they are perfect to form part of a high-protein vegetarian diet (2). Just sprinkle them over your salads, veggies, and noodles.
2. Prevent Diabetes
Sesame seeds contain magnesium and other nutrients that have been shown to combat diabetes. The usage of sesame seed oil as the sole edible oil has been found to be effective in lowering the blood pressure and plasma glucose in hypersensitive diabetics (3).
3. Cure Anemia
4. Cardiovascular Health
- Sesame seed oil prevents atherosclerotic lesions and hence, is beneficial for the heart health.
- They contain an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound called sesamol that also exhibits anti-atherogenic properties, thus improving the cardiovascular health.
- Sesame seeds are high in the monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid, which helps in lowering the bad cholesterol and increasing the good cholesterol in the body. This prevents the risk of coronary artery disease and strokes (5).
5. Anti-Cancer Properties
Sesame seeds contain magnesium which has anti-cancer properties. They also contain an anti-cancer compound called phytate. Sesame seeds have proven to be effective in reducing the risk of colorectal tumors, thus preventing colorectal cancer (6).
6. Digestive Health
Sesame seeds support a healthy digestive system and colon as they are rich in fiber. This high fiber content helps in smooth functioning of the intestine, thus facilitating waste disposal and relieving constipation (7).
7. Relief From Rheumatoid Arthritis
Sesame seeds contain copper, a mineral that is vital for antioxidant enzyme systems, thus reducing the pain and swelling associated with arthritis. Besides, this mineral provides strength to the blood vessels, bones, and joints.
8. Respiratory Health
Magnesium contained in sesame seeds prevents asthma and other respiratory disorders by preventing airway spasms (8).
[ Read: Sesame Oil Benefits ]
9. Protection From Radiation Damage
Sesamol, found in sesame seeds and sesame oil, has been found to prevent the DNA from being damaged by radiation. It also prevents damage to the intestines and the spleen.
10. Bone Health
Sesame seeds contain zinc that boosts the bone mineral density and the bone health. The deficiency of this mineral can cause osteoporosis in the hip and spine area. Sesame seeds are a great source of calcium, a trace mineral that is vital to bone health (9).
11. Oral Health
Sesame seeds and sesame seed oil help in boosting the oral health by removing dental plaque and whitening your teeth. Oil pulling, i.e. swishing your sesame seed oil in your mouth, can reduce the amount of streptococcus mutants in both the teeth and the mouth saliva and boost the overall health (10).
12. Nullify The Effects Of Alcohol
Sesame seeds help the liver to decompose the harmful effects of alcohol as well as other substances that generate poisoning in the body.
13. Treatment Of Anxiety
- Sesame seeds contain several nutrients that have stress-relieving properties (11).
- Minerals like magnesium and calcium act as an antispasmodic by regulating the muscle function i.e. contraction and relaxation.
- Thiamin (vitamin B1) has calming properties that aid in proper nerve functioning. The deficiency of this vitamin can lead to muscle spasms, moodiness, and depression.
- Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is involved in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that reduces pain and regulates the sleep pattern and mood. The inadequacy of serotonin production and transmission in the brain can result in anxiety and depression.
14. Lower Cholesterol
- Black sesame seeds benefit in lowering the cholesterol levels. They contain two substances called sesamin and sesamolin, which belong to a group of fibers called lignans. Lignans have a cholesterol lowering effect as they are rich in dietary fiber (12).
- Black sesame seeds also contain plant compounds called phytosterols which have a structure similar to that of cholesterol. Their consumption not only decreases the blood cholesterol levels, but also reduces the risk of developing certain types of cancer.
- Sesame seeds have the highest phytosterol content of all seeds and nuts.
15. Eye Health
- According to traditional Chinese medicine, there is a strong relationship between the internal organs and external parts such as the eyes and the liver (13), (14).
- The liver stores blood and since a certain branch of the liver channel goes to the eyes, the liver can also send blood to the eyes to support their functioning.
- Black sesame seeds are beneficial for the liver as they increase the liver blood, thereby nourishing the eyes. Their therapeutic effects help in treating blurred vision and tired, dry eyes.
16. Nourish The Organs
Black sesame seeds have been found to increase energy, nourish the brain and slow down aging. The regular consumption of black sesame seeds can help reduce the symptoms of backache, painful or tight and stiff joints, and weakness in the joints.
17. Blood Pressure Reduction
Nowadays hypertension is a common health problem among women and men from various age groups. Studies have indicated that using this oil can help reduce hypertension. The magnesium in this oil helps reduce blood pressure.
The extensive range of minerals and vitamins in this oil help boost your immunity. Its antioxidants and these nutrients help the body fight cancer causing elements in a better way. The phytates present in these seeds are known for their cancer preventing properties too.
18. Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Using black sesame seed oil, either topically or by consumption, can help reduce ailments and conditions caused by inflammation. The high amount of copper in this oil helps the users cope better with inflammation caused conditions affecting the body joints.
Skin Benefits Of Sesame Seeds
Sesame is rich in powerful antioxidants and possesses antibacterial and antiviral properties. It offers several benefits to your skin by bringing blood and nourishment. The oil extracted from sesame seeds is rich in omega-6, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins B and E which have been used as products of beautification. Let us learn how sesame seeds are beneficial for the skin.
[ Read: Sesame Oil for Hair ]
19. Healing Properties
Sesame seed oil is a natural anti-inflammatory agent and has excellent healing properties. Its antibacterial properties help to get rid of skin pathogens like staphylococcus and streptococcus as well as common skin fungi such as athlete’s foot fungus (15). Sesame seed oil mixed with warm water can control vaginal yeast infections.
20. Treatment Of Sunburns
When used after the exposure to the wind or the sun, sesame seed oil can treat suntans. It prevents the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun from damaging your skin, thus preventing the appearance of wrinkles and pigmentation. The regular usage of this oil significantly reduces the risk of skin cancer and prevents the skin from the effects of chlorine in swimming pool water (16).
21. Skin Detoxifier
The antioxidants contained in sesame seed oil help in detoxifying your skin (17). When applied on the skin, the molecules of this oil attract oil-soluble toxins that can be washed away with hot water and soap.
- Mix half a cup of sesame seed oil with half a cup of apple cider vinegar and a quarter cup of water.
- This should be applied every night after splashing your face with water.
You should include sesame seed oil in your beauty regime.
22. Suitable For Babies
Baby skin, particularly the area covered with diapers, often gets rashes due to the acidity of body wastes. Sesame seed oil protects their tender skin against these rashes (18). Applying it to the nose and ears provides protection against common skin pathogens. It also combats dryness of skin.
23. Glowing Skin
- Sesame seed oil can provide you with glowing skin. It maintains skin flexibility by keeping it soft and supple, and heals the areas of mild cuts, scrapes and abrasions.
- It helps tighten the facial skin, particularly the area around the nose, and controls the enlargement of pores.
- It also controls eruptions and neutralizes the poisons which develop on the surface and in the pores.
- You can also try a facial for glowing skin.
- Massage your face thoroughly with sesame seed oil and scrub your face with rice or besan powder before washing off with warm water.
- Later, splash your face with cold water to close the pores.
24. Treatment Of Cracked Heels
If you have cracked heels or sore feet, you can apply sesame seed oil every night before going to bed and cover your feet with cotton socks. This should be done for a couple of days to get soft and supple feet (19).
Hair Benefits Of Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are packed with vitamins, nutrients and minerals that are vital for the maintenance of a healthy scalp and hair. Just like the skin, sesame seed oil has beneficial effects on your scalp, thus combating various scalp problems. Their benefits for the scalp are as follows.
25. Encourage Hair Growth
Sesame seeds contain essential fatty acids such as omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 which promote hair growth. Sesame seed oil stimulates hair growth by nourishing, conditioning, and promoting a healthy scalp. The regular massage with warm sesame oil penetrates your scalp, thus increasing the blood circulation. It is comparable to a liquid vitamin that feeds your hair roots and shafts (20).
[ Read: Sesame Seeds for Hair Growth ]
26. Prevention Of Scalp Problems
Sesame seeds are rich in replenishing vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are vital for a healthy scalp. Massaging your scalp with sesame seed oil combats dryness, flakiness and clogged pores that cause hair thinning and hair loss. Besides, its antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help in treating scalp infections and dandruff and soothing an irritated scalp.
27. Natural Sunscreen
Sesame seed oil acts as a natural sunscreen for your hair by protecting it from the damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays and pollution.
28. Deep Conditioning
Sesame seed oil acts as a deep conditioning treatment for dry, damaged hair, split ends or chemically treated hair. It restores the lost moisture and strengthens the hair shaft, enabling dull and brittle hair to regain its shine, bounce, elasticity and softness.
29. Hair Darkening Qualities
Sesame seed oil is known for its hair darkening qualities that make it effective for people suffering from premature graying of hair. It can be used with carrier oils like olive or almond oil to reap the maximum benefits.
Nutritional Value Of Sesame Seeds
All varieties of sesame seeds are extremely nutritious. They have a high oil content of 40% to 60%. They are a rich source of minerals like copper and manganese. They also contain magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, selenium, vitamin B1 and zinc, and are rich in dietary fiber and monounsaturated fats. Their nutritional profile is explained below.
|Sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum), whole, dried,|
Nutritional value per 100 g. (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||49.67 g||166%|
|Dietary Fiber||11.8 g||31%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.050 mg||1%|
|Vitamin A||9 IU||<1%|
|Vitamin E||0.25 mg||2%|
- Calories: An ounce of raw, dried sesame seeds contains around 163 calories and 14.11 grams of fats, including 1.96 grams saturated fats. Roasted sesame seeds, on the other hand, contain 160 calories and 13.61 grams of fats, including 1.09 grams saturated fats. Both raw and roasted sesame seeds are cholesterol free.
- Protein: Sesame seeds are a great vegetarian source of protein. An ounce of raw, dry sesame seeds contain 5.03 grams of protein, whereas the roasted ones contain 4.81 grams. However, one cannot solely rely on sesame seeds as a source of protein as the actual amount of protein derived is far less.
- Vitamins: Both raw and roasted sesame seeds are devoid of vitamins A, C, D, E or K. An ounce of raw or roasted sesame seeds contains 0.22 mg of thiamin, which is 19% of the daily value and 0.07 mg of riboflavin, which is equivalent to 6% of the daily value for adults.
- Minerals: An ounce of dried sesame seeds provides 291 mg of calcium, 4.113 mg of iron and 9.77 mg selenium, satisfying 29.1% of the daily value of calcium and 18 % of the daily value of selenium for adults. It also satisfies 23% and more than 50% of the recommended daily value of iron for women and men respectively. Roasted sesame seeds have a comparatively lower mineral content than their raw counterparts.
Sesame seeds are packed full of essential nutrients. Try and include them in your diet and you will see the benefits. You can try and use sesame oil as a cooking base as well. No wonder, the popular adage comes to our mind – big things come in small packages. Stay fit, stay healthy!
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