Sesame seeds are known for their unique nutty flavor and great nutritional value. Sesame plant is an annual herb belonging to the Pedaliaceae family. It is identified by the scientific name Sesamum indicum.
It grows widely in the Asian countries, especially in India, China and Burma. It is one of the major commercial crops in Sudan, Ethiopia and Nigeria. Sesame seeds are released from the fruits. Sesame seeds come in a variety of color, size and form.
The seeds are oval shaped, slightly flattened and thinner at the hilum. The common variety of sesame seed is off-white colored seeds. They may come in other colors such as brown, gold, black, gray, reddish tan or buff. Sesame seeds are known for their highest oil content. Sesame oil is considered to be highly valued for culinary and medicinal uses. Due to their delicate nutty flavor, sesame seeds are used in variety of dishes such as biscuits, toasts, cakes, breads, salads and stir fries.
Sesame seeds contain a rich amount of nutrients that are essential for good health. They consist of proteins, sugar, carbohydrates and dietary fiber. They also possess high amount of vitamins like vitamin A, C, D, E and K, as well as vitamin B complex such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, choline and betaine. Sesame seeds are good source of various minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, fluoride and selenium.
Medicinal Properties of Sesame Seeds
Protein present in sesame seeds is an excellent source of dietary protein along with fine quality amino acids. B-complex vitamins are necessary to improve nervous system, enhance metabolism and for healthy skin, hair, eyes and muscles. The minerals like iron, calcium, copper and magnesium are essential for bone mineralization, red blood cell production, hormone production and enzyme synthesis. Copper is beneficial for treating rheumatoid arthritis, reducing pain and swelling. Magnesium is good for respiratory health. It helps to prevent airway spasm in asthma. Calcium is helpful in preventing osteoporosis, colon cancer, migraines and premenstrual syndrome. Zinc is beneficial to maintain bone mineral density. Regular consumption of sesame seeds gives all these benefits of minerals.
– Sesame seeds contain a rich amount of mono-unsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid, which helps to increase HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. It is helpful in preventing coronary artery diseases and stroke.
– In addition, sesame seeds also contain phenolic antioxidants, sesamol and sesaminol. They help to eliminate harmful free radicals from the body and strengthen immune system.
– Sesame seeds contain high amount of zinc, which is an essential mineral for collagen synthesis and increasing the skin elasticity. Zinc also helps to repair the damaged tissues. Sesame oil is beneficial to soothe burns and relieve skin problems.
– One of the significant health benefits of sesame seeds and sesame oil is to improve oral health. Sesame oil is helpful in relieving dental plaque and gingivitis. It also helps to reduce the growth of Streptococcus mutans, which are responsible for oral plaque formation. It prevents dry throat, halitosis and bleeding gums and strengthens teeth and gums.
– Due to content of magnesium, sesame seeds are helpful to fight diabetes. Sesame oil is capable of lowering blood pressure and reducing glucose levels in hypertensive diabetics.
– Sesame seeds and sesame oil can improve heart health by preventing atherosclerosis lesions. Sesamol, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound in sesame, is found to be beneficial for heart. Sesamol contributes greatly in improving cardiovascular health.
– Sesame seeds are rich in dietary fiber, which is helpful to relieve constipation and improves colon and digestive health.
– Sesame oil is excellent massage oil, which makes the skin soft and glowing. It can be good massaging oil for the infants, which improves their growth and post-massage sleep.
Sesame seeds can cause hypersensitivity reaction in some people. It may cause symptoms like dermatitis, itching and hives. Sometimes, allergic reactions may cause serious symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting, swelling of throat and lips along with breathing difficulty and chest congestion.
Despite of its some side-effects, sesame seeds can be used in various dishes and sprinkled on cookies and salads for its crunchy taste and to gain its wonderful health benefits.