Sesame seeds are extremely beneficial for health, but are often overlooked, and they include the ability to prevent diabetes, lower blood pressure, prevent a wide variety of cancers, build strong bones, protect against radiation, increase heart health, help cure sleep disorders, improve digestion, reduce inflammation, boost respiratory health, strengthen your oral health, aid in healthy growth, improve circulation, detoxify the body, and eliminate depression and chronic stress.
Sesame seeds are derived from an unremarkable plant of the Sesamum genus and bears the scientific name of Sesamum indicum. Sesame seeds are considered the oldest oildseed crop in the world, and have been intentionally cultivated for more than 3,500 years. Evidence of their native forms are both in Africa and in India, places where they are still widely cultivated. It is extremely resilient, and grows in places where many other crops fail, which is why it was so heavily relied on throughout the ages.
Although it is a seed, it can still bother people with nut allergies, and it has a distinctly nutty flavor. Many of the health benefits are derived from the oils, which are found in higher concentrations in sesame seeds that in any other oilseed crop in the world. The sesame plant is no more than 3 feet tall, and the seeds are released from small pods along the plants’ axes.
The seeds themselves are very small, only 3-4 mm long and 2 mm wide, yet 3.85 million metric tonnes are produced every year! The seeds comes in a wide variety of colors, depending on the variety or strain of the sesame plant. The seeds can be purchased either shelled or unshelled. They are commonly added to salads, as an ingredient or topping for bread and grain products, crackers, sushi, cakes, soups, breading for fish and meat, and a wide variety of other applications. You can find sesame seeds in almost every cultural cuisine in some way. This wide spread is due to its availability, health benefits, and pleasant flavor.
Nutritional Value of Sesame Seeds
The many health benefits of sesame seeds are due to its nutritional content, including vitamins, minerals, natural oils, and organic compounds which consist of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, zinc, fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, protein, and tryptophan. The wide range of health benefits are explained in greater detail below.
Health Benefits of Sesame Seeds
Blood Pressure: The natural oils of sesame seeds have been connected to a reduction in hypertension in a number of research studies, which reduces the strain on your cardiovascular system, and helps prevent various cardiac conditions. Furthermore, magnesium has long been known as a vasodilator (an agent that reduces blood pressure) and sesame seeds are packed with this essential mineral, containing up to 25% of your daily requirement in a single serving.
Cancer Prevention: With the wide range of essential vitamins and minerals contained in sesame seeds, it is no surprise that it has been linked to a reduction in the risk of cancer. Beyond the role of these more common minerals, including the powerful anti-carcinogenic effects of magnesium, sesame seeds also contain phytate, an uncommon cancer preventing compound that functions as an antioxidant and reduces the impact and effects of free radicals, those pesky and dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that have been connected to many forms of cancer and various other conditions like heart diseases, premature aging, and cognitive malfunctions. Specific cancer prevention that sesame seeds have been linked to include leukemia, breast, lung, pancreatic, colon, and prostate cancers.
Diabetes Management: The components of sesame seeds, once again including the vital source of magnesium, have been connected to reducing the chances of diabetes and managing the symptoms in patients having already developed the condition. Furthermore, it has been shown that sesame seed oil can positively effect the impact of various diabetic medications like glibenclamide in patients suffering from Type 2 diabetes. It improves this oral medication’s functionality and further regulates the insulin and glucose levels in the body, thereby helping to manage the symptoms of diabetes.
Bone Health: The impressive levels of essential minerals like zinc, calcium, and phosphorous that are found in sesame seeds can be a major boost for your body’s bone health. These minerals are integral parts in creating new bone matter, and strengthening/repairing bones that may be weakened by injury or the onset of debilitating bone conditions like osteoporosis.
Digestion: These little seeds pack a significant amount of fiber inside of them, like many other seeds and nuts. Fiber is an important element in healthy digestion, as it bulks up bowel movements and helps them move through the digestive tract, as well as stimulating peristaltic motion as food moves through the smooth intestine. This can reduce conditions like constipation, as well as diarrhea, while simultaneously protecting the health of your colon and reducing the chances of gastrointestinal diseases and cancer. Fiber also works for your heart, by scraping out dangerous LDL cholesterol from arteries and blood vessels, thereby protecting against atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
Anti-Inflammatory Qualities: The high content of copper in sesame seeds has a number of valuable functions, including the reduction of inflammation in the joints, bones, and muscles, thereby reducing the associated pain of arthritis. Furthermore, copper is an essential mineral for strengthening blood vessel walls, bones, and joints. Finally, copper is necessary for the proper uptake of iron, a key component of hemoglobin. Therefore, proper copper content in the body maximizes circulation and ensures that the organ systems of the entire body receive enough oxygen to function properly.
Radiation Protection: One of the unusual organic compounds in sesame seeds is called sesamol, and it has been associated with protecting DNA from the harmful effects of radiation. This radiation could come from accidental sources, or from the treatment of cancer with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. By protecting DNA from mutation due to radiation, sesame seeds can boost strength and reduce the chances of contracting other forms of cancer due to cellular mutation.
Oral Health: Perhaps the most celebrated effects of sesame seeds is its powerful effects on oral health. Through a process called oil pulling, in which certain amounts of sesame seed oil is swished around the mouth, it can have a strong antibacterial and astringent effect on all aspects of oral health. It is also closely associated with reducing the presence of the Streptococcus bacteria, a common bacteria that can wreak havoc on your oral cavities and other parts of your body.
Skin and Hair Health: As mentioned, sesame seeds contain high levels of zinc, a vital component in the formation of collagen, which strengthens muscle tissue, hair, and skin. Also, sesame seed oil has been shown to reduce the appearance of burns and marks on the skin, as well as reducing the signs of premature aging.
Metabolic Function: Sesame seeds contain high amounts of protein, which is broken down and reassembled from its component parts into usable proteins for the human body. This adds to overall strength, healthy cellular growth, mobility, energy levels and metabolic function.
A Few Words of Warning: Excessive consumption of sesame seeds can cause irritation in the stomach and colon, they can also show up on drug tests due to their small amount of THC. However, both of these things occur when consumed in very large amounts.