Sesame Seeds: Properties, Benefits, Contraindications and Recipes

Unlocking the power of an ancient superfood for modern health

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By Max Bender

sesame seeds

Sesame seeds are celebrated not only for their distinctive flavor but also for their vast array of health benefits, making them a staple in diets worldwide. In this detailed guide, we delve into the many properties, health benefits, and potential contraindications of sesame seeds, as well as their diverse culinary uses.

What Are Sesame Seeds?

Sesame seeds come from the Sesamum indicum plant, which belongs to the Pedaliaceae family. This annual plant is predominantly found in tropical regions including India, China, and Burma.

These seeds are considered one of the oldest oilseed crops, with a history of cultivation that stretches back over 5,000 years.

Types of Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are primarily found in three colors:

  • Black Sesame Seeds: Known for their stronger flavor and nutritional value.
  • White Sesame Seeds: These are the most common variety and have a milder taste.
  • Red Sesame Seeds: Similar to black seeds, they have a rich flavor and contain slightly more iron.

Nutritional Profile

Sesame seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients. Theyoffer an impressive array of essential nutrients that play a vital role in maintaining good health. Renowned for their diverse applications, these tiny seeds pack a substantial nutritional punch in a small package.

Below, we detail the key components of sesame seeds per 100 grams, showcasing why they are considered a superfood:

Nutrient Amount Unit
Calories 573 kcal
Protein 18 g
Total Fat 50 g
Carbohydrates 23 g
Fiber 12 g
Calcium 975 mg
Iron 14.55 mg
Magnesium 351 mg
Phosphorus 629 mg
Zinc 7.75 mg

 

Health Benefits of Sesame Seeds

Here are some of the key health benefits of these tiny yet powerful seeds:

  • Cardiovascular Health: Rich in lignans, specifically sesamin and sesamolin, these seeds can significantly aid in lowering cholesterol and managing blood pressure. These lignans help improve lipid profiles and enhance the elasticity of arterial walls.
  • Bone Health: With their high content of calcium and zinc, sesame seeds are invaluable for maintaining bone density and structural integrity. Calcium is crucial for bone health, while zinc aids in bone tissue renewal and mineralization, which is essential for keeping bones strong and healthy.
  • Antioxidant Properties: They contain sesamol, an antioxidant that helps combat oxidative stress and reduce inflammation in the body. This antioxidant activity is vital in preventing the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and conditions associated with aging.
  • Digestive Health: The fiber found in these tiny seeds is beneficial for digestive health. It helps regulate bowel movements and can aid in preventing and treating conditions like constipation. The high fiber content also fosters a healthy gut microbiome, crucial for overall health and effective digestion.
  • Hormonal Balance: Particularly beneficial for women, their phytoestrogen compounds can help in balancing hormone levels. This can be particularly helpful during menopause when estrogen levels significantly fluctuate.
  • Anti-inflammatory Effects: The copper in these seeds not only helps in reducing inflammation in joints, muscles, and bones but also assists in pain reduction for conditions like arthritis. Copper is also essential for strengthening blood vessels, bones, and joints.
  • Skin and Hair Health: They are a rich source of fatty acids and vitamins that are vital for maintaining healthy skin and hair. They help in hydrating the skin, promoting elasticity, and providing a natural glow. Additionally, the oils found in sesame seeds can contribute to hair strength and luster.

Culinary Uses

Sesame seeds are incredibly versatile in cooking. Here are a few examples.

  • Tahini: This paste is a crucial ingredient in Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus and baba ghanoush.
  • Oil: The oil derived from these seeds is widely used in cooking for its nutty aroma and high smoking point, ideal for frying and sautéing.
  • Gomasio: A Japanese condiment made from ground sesame seeds and salt, often sprinkled over rice.
  • Baking and Sweets: They can add a nutty flavor to breads, cookies, and other baked goods.
sesame seeds
An Ancient Superfood: Sesame Seeds.

Contraindications and Allergies

While sesame seeds offers numerous health benefits, they can also pose risks for certain individuals:

  • Allergies: They are among the top allergens, potentially causing severe allergic reactions.
  • Calorie Density: Due to their high calorie and fat content, excessive consumption of these seeds might lead to weight gain if not balanced within a healthy diet.
  • Blood Pressure: Excessive consumption of these seeds can drop blood pressure to dangerously low levels

Does Sesame Make You Gain Weight?

Given the caloric values of these seeds, many rightly wonder if sesame can lead to weight gain. Obviously, as we have already emphasized, it is wise to consume oil-rich seeds in moderation.

However, it is really rare for a person to eat large quantities of seeds, while if used as an afternoon or mid-morning snack, they can really prove to be great allies for our health.

When is the Best Time to Eat Them: Morning or Night?

Choosing the optimal time to eat these seeds largely depends on personal eating habits and dietary preferences. However they are perfect in the morning or as a nutritious midday snack. Regardless the type of seeds you like -black or white- incorporating them into your diet at these times can maximize their health benefits.

Eating them in the morning can provide a boost of energy and essential nutrients to start the day, enhancing your breakfast with a crunchy texture. As a snack, they offer a satisfying crunch and are a great way to stave off hunger while delivering a nutrient-rich treat to support your health throughout the day.

Daily Recommended Intake

The general recommendation is to consume no more than 1-2 tablespoons of sesame seeds daily to avoid excessive calorie intake and maximize their health benefits.

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