Sesame seeds also called Till, Ellu and Nuvvulu in India have amazing health benefits and uses. Sesame seeds have wide uses from treating pcos, irregular periods and strengthening the uterus to keeping our skin, hair and face healthy and glowing. Since it is rich in nutrients like calcium and iron, it helps prevent nutritional deficiencies if consumed on a regular basis. Sesame oil extracted from the seeds and sesame seed paste got by grinding the seeds also have wonderful uses.
What Are Sesame Seeds ?
Sesame seeds are tiny flat oval seeds with a nutty taste and delicate crunch. They come in different colors ranging from white, red to black. Sesame seeds are one of the oldest condiments known to man. It is widely cultivated in the tropical parts of Africa and Asia and there are more than 30 species at present.
India is the largest producer of sesame seeds and it is also produced in Myanmar, China and Sudan. Sesame seeds are used whole in salads and when ground into a paste, it is called tahini and it is used in both savory and sweet recipes and also in salad dressings.
Sesame oil extracted from the seeds is rich in unsaturated fatty acids and is used extensively cooking, hair care and skin care too. Sesame oil contains sesamin which accounts for .4 to 1.1 %, sesamolin which accounts for .3 to .6 % and also small amounts of sesamol. All these compounds are responsible for the the amazing health benefits of sesame oil.
Sesame Seeds Nutrition:
100 grams of sesame seeds contains around 580 calories, 18 grams of protein, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 5.5 grams of fiber, 960 mg of calcium, 19 mg of iron, 362 mg of magnesium, 659 mg of phosphorus, 582 mg of potassium, 7 mg of zinc, 4mg of copper, 2.5 mg of manganese, .2 mg of thiamin, 6.7 mg of niacin and .2mg of riboflavin.
Sesame seeds are very rich in oil content and 83 to 90 % of it is unsaturated fatty acids out of which 43% of the fatty acids are oleic acid, 35% linoleic acid, 11% of palmitic acid and 7% of stearic acid.
Sesame Seeds Botanical and Common Names
The botanical name of sesame seed plant is Sesamum Indicum. It is called Ellu in Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada, Til in Hindi and Bengali, Teel in Marathi and Nuvvulu in Telugu.
Sesame Seeds Chemical Composition:
Sesame seeds are rich in lignans and the important ones found in high concentration are sesamin, sesamolin, sesamol and sesaminol. It also contains tocopherols, phytosterol, phytates and minerals.
Types Of Sesame Seeds
1. Brown Sesame Seeds
Brown sesame seeds have a high oil content of almost 50% and it is mainly used for oil extraction. It is rarely used in cooking and also not commonly available.
2. White Sesame Seeds
White sesame seeds are extensively used more than other seeds as it is not bitter and tastes wonderful when likely toasted. It is mostly sprinkled over buns and cakes and also added to salads and noodles. It adds a slight crunch and nutty flavour to the dish. White sesame seeds contains around 48% of oil.
3. Black Sesame Seeds
Black sesame seeds are used extensively for medicinal purposes. We also use it in cooking here in India. Rice made with roasted and ground sesame seeds is very popular here in Tamil Nadu. We also add it to Idli powders which is usually served as an accompaniment to Idli and dosa. Black sesame seeds contains around 47.8 % of oil.
4. Red Sesame Seeds
Red sesame seeds are very aromatic and and their oil content is almost around 50%. Like white and black sesame seeds, red sesame seeds are used both in cooking and for oil extraction.
15 Top Health Benefits of Sesame Seeds
1. Good Source Of Plant Based Protein
Sesame seeds are very high in protein, 100 grams of sesame seeds contains almost around 18 grams of protein. So if you are a vegan or a vegetarian, try to include sesame seeds in your diet regularly, it will greatly help prevent protein deficiency. Try to make your own tahini at home and use regularly.
2. Anticancer Properties
Two mammalian lignans called enterolactone and enterodiol which are produced by our gut microbiome have potential anticancer properties and two of the common foods that are converted by the gut microbiome into lignans are sesame seeds and flax seeds. You can read the study that supports this claim here.
3. Cardiovascular Health
Sesame seeds are rich in mono and polyunsaturated acids that helps reduce cholesterol levels. It is very low in unsaturated fat, the kind of fat that usually increases good cholesterol in our body. Sesame seeds are also rich in fiber (100 grams contain 5.5 grams of fiber), so like any high fibre food it will help reduce high cholesterol levels. Also, the lignin sesamin helps reduce high cholesterol levels and you can read the study that proves it here.
4. Good for Bone Health
Sesame seeds are very high in calcium (100 grams contains 960 mg of calcium) so it is very very good women who are suffering from low bone density. Sesame seeds are also high in zinc which is a very important mineral that is essential for bone health and for preventing osteoporosis.
5. For Treating Pcos & Irregular Periods
Like all the other seeds, consuming sesame seeds regularly helps with hormone balance and is especially good for women suffering from Pcos and irregular periods. Also the active compounds present in sesame seeds, sesamolinol, sesamolin and sesamin are rich in antioxidants. These compounds help get rid of free radicals which are the major cause for premature aging of our skin and body.
6. Helps Regulate Blood Pressure
The unsaturated fatty acids, sesamin and vitamin E present in sesame seeds greatly helps reduce hypertension. If you are suffering from hypertension, consider including sesame seeds in your diet regularly. You can read the study that supports this claim here.
7. Good for Pregnant Women
Sesame seeds are rich in folic acid which is essential for DNA synthesis and pregnant women are advised to take folic acid to prevent birth defects in the baby’s brain and spinal cord. During pregnancy, try to include all the traditional foods using sesame seeds like sesame seed rice and sesame seed laddu regularly in your diet.
8. Reduces Inflammation
Another important health benefit of sesame seeds is it is very rich in zinc which helps reduce inflammation, boosts immunity, reduces age related diseases and speeds up wound healing. You can read the study that supports the anti inflammatory properties here.
9. Treats Anemia
Sesame seeds are rich in iron, 100 grams of sesame seeds contains around 19 mg of iron. Generally many women are iron deficient and iron deficiency can lead to extreme fatigue, weakness, pale skin, inflammation, cold hands and feet, headache and shortness of breath. Instead of taking iron supplements, which can have many side effects including darkness of the neck and constipation, try to consume foods that are naturally high in iron like sesame seeds.
10. Prevents Neurodegenerative Diseases
The compounds sesamin and episesamin present in sesame seeds has neuroprotective properties and greatly prevents neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Sesame seeds are also rich in magnesium which is very essential for many of the biochemical reactions in our body including nerve function. Magnesium helps maintain normal nerve and muscle function maintains a healthy immunity, keep the bones strong, is essential for protein synthesis, blood glucose regulation and blood pressure regulation. You can read the study that supports this claim here.
11. Prevents Nutrient Deficiency
Sesame seeds are rich in wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Regularly including it in our diet will greatly prevent nutritional deficiencies. It is very rich in minerals and vitamins like phosphorus, potassium, selenium, manganese, copper, niacin, folate and vitamin A.
12. Oral Health
Sesame oil has been used for oil pulling from ancient times. Oil pulling is nothing but taking unrefined sesame oil and swishing it around the mouth for a few minutes. Since it has antibacterial properties it greatly prevents dental problems like dental caries, gum inflammation, etc.
13. Sun Protective Properties
Sesame oil has mild sun protective properties. It has spf value of 1.7. It also helps reduce skin inflammation caused due to sun damage when used as a massage oil. At home, we regularly use sesame oil as a massage oil and it is a practice that has been done for many years in our village. I personally like to mix it with extra virgin olive oil and vitamin e oil and use it is a massage oil.
14. Skin Conditioning Properties
Sesame oil, when included in massage creams or massage oils conditions the skin really well. It is one of the best home remedies for treating dry skin. Also regularly consuming sesame seeds is good for both our skin and hair as it contains many vitamins and minerals that are essential for glowing skin and hair including zinc, iron, calcium and protein.
15. Conditions The Hair
Sesame oil is traditionally used for having oil bath in India. Men have oil bath on Wednesdays and Saturdays and women have oil bath on Tuesdays and Fridays. We massage hair with sesame oil infused with herbs and this helps conditioner hair, treat scalp problems and promote hair growth.
Where To Buy Sesame Seeds ?
The white and black variety of sesame seeds are commonly available in all the departmental stores in India. The red and brown variety can be ordered through some specialty shops. You can also order them online too.
How Much Sesame Seeds Can We Consume In A Day?
As far as the safe dosage of sesame seeds, I couldn’t find any research for the safe upper limit but through personal experience, I can say that we can consume about 1 tbsp of sesame seeds without any problems if you are not allergic and also don’t consume any medication that sesame seeds might interact with.
5 Top Ways To Use Sesame Seeds For Health Hair and Skin:
- Toasted sesame seeds can be added to salads and noodles. It gives a nice crunch and also increases the nutritional value of the dish.
- Sesame seed paste can be included in skincare recipes. I use sesame seed paste in body scrubs and you can find the recipe for it here. It makes the skin super soft and glowing.
- Sesame oil can be used as a massage oil along with other conditioning oils like extra virgin olive oil and sweet almond oil. Adding a few drops of your favourite essential oils will make the massage oil smell very nice.
- Sesame oil can be used for making hair oils. You can use any herbs of your choice. Mix it with sesame oil and heat in low flame till there is no moisture left, strain, store and use it is pre shampoo massage oil.
- Sesame seed paste also referred to as tahini can be included in both sweet and savoury recipes. You can also add it to salad dressings too.