Eating With Purpose --- Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are derived from the flowering plant that belongs to genus Sesamum. The tree produces pods and when these pods mature they are filled with this amazing seeds. Sesame seeds and its oil has been used all around the world in different cuisines for more than 5000 yrs.
There are two varieties black and white. The black ones are little bitter but they provide equal benefit. Also the seeds are available as hulled or unhulled. The unhulled seeds have outer edible husk intact. This gives the seeds golden brown hue.
Sesame seeds have sweet, nutty taste. Its taste and aroma is enhanced by roasting. Hundred grams of dries whole sesame seeds provide 573 calories. These seeds contain 50 to 60 % of the fatty oils. These fatty oils belong lignan family and are named as sesamine and sesamolin. These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These seeds are also rich in several B vitamins and multiple dietary minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and zinc.
Our body needs zinc to boost immune function. Zinc helps in development and activation of white blood cells. These white blood cells are very important part of our defense mechanism. Three table spoon of sesame seeds will provide about 20% of the RDI (Reference Daily Intake) for zinc. These days with COVID 19 pandemic maintain strong immune system is a crucial requirement. Daily consumption in moderate amount will help in enhancing the immune function.
Iron found in sesame seeds help in prevention of anemia. This will boost your energy levels. The seeds also provide good dose of cooper, which helps in maintain normal bone and nerve function. Sesame seeds also have good selenium content. Selenium plays vital role in making thyroid hormones. Thiamine, niacin and vitamin B6 present in sesame seeds helps in boosting cellular function. Unhulled sesame seeds are very rich in calcium. Calcium is vital in for of good bone health.
The lignans in sesame seeds are powerful antioxidants and also have significant anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds help in fighting oxidative stress. Oxidative stress leads to many chronic diseases. By reducing chronic inflammation, we can prevent many chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. A meta-analysis showed that consumption of these seeds can reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Studies have also shown their benefit in lowering high cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease. Three table spoon full of sesame seeds also provide 3.5gm of fiber which is 12% of the RDI. Fiber is very important for supporting good digestive health. High fiber diet has shown to reduce colon cancer, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Sesame seeds have also been shown to increase and regulate sex hormones levels. Sesamin in these seeds gets converted to enterolactone by intestinal bacteria. Enterolactone is a phytoestrogen compound with estrogen like activity. Research have suggested that these seeds can be helpful for post-menopausal symptoms in women.
I suggest roasting the seeds before use. Roasting enhances their nutty flavor and also reduces oxalate and phytate compounds in the seeds which can hamper digestion and absorption of proteins. So go ahead sprinkle them liberally on top of salads, soups and stir-fries. You can make tahini paste and use it for homemade healthy hummus. I love making little sesame candies. Caramelize the sugar and add sesame seeds, cardamom powder, cinnamon and little nutmeg powder. They are delicious little treats full of flavor and promise of good health.
So with so many benefits these seeds are a powerhouse that boosts our immunity, regulate thyroid function, aids in bone health and helps in preventing chronic illness. Its benefits are many fold and we should use them more regularly in our diet. As you all know sesame seeds are very rich in fats and proteins. I recommend use in moderation. Please contact your provider if you think these seeds will interact with any of your medications.