The magical phrase of ‘Open Sesame’ or Khulja Sim Sim in Hindi was used to open the doors to a treasure cave in the story of Alibaba and Forty Thieves. Folklore may disagree that the word ’sesame’ in the tale referred to the sesame plant or its seeds but the nutrition community across the world is certain that the ‘sesame’ seeds are indeed enchanting enough to unlock an extraordinary wealth of nutritive, curative and health promoting properties.
Sesame or til seeds have been around for centuries; enjoying mention in both culinary and traditional medicine areas. Besides being flavorful, crunchy and delightfully tasty; sesame seeds are also highly valued for their rich assortment of vitamins, minerals, proteins, phyto nutrients, dietary fiber and the ‘good fats’.
- Sesame seeds are an important source of ‘heart healthy’ mono unsaturated fatty acid ( oleic acid) that are known to cut the bad LDL cholesterol and improve the levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. The ‘phytosterols’ (plant compounds having chemical structure similar to cholesterol) present in black sesame seeds impart cardio protective, immunity boosting and anti-hypertensive effects.
- Sesame seeds are excellent sources of essential minerals such as copper, magnesium, iron, manganese, calcium and zinc. Copper is useful for reduction of pain and proper functioning of many critical enzymatic processes; magnesium aids in better vascular and respiratory health and manganese is needed for fat and carbohydrate metabolism. A table spoon of husked sesame seeds contains approx. 90 milligrams of calcium, a mineral essential for improving bone mineral density and preventing rheumatoid arthritis, migraine and PMS related symptoms. Iron alleviates fatigue and zinc helps to fight age related degeneration.
- Sesame seeds are also valuable for their good quality amino acids (100 gm of sesame seeds provide approx. 20 g of dietary protein), B complex vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin and folates, and dietary fiber stores. They are particularly beneficial to lactating mothers, growing children and people suffering from osteoporosis and diabetes due to rich nutrient profile and plasma glucose reducing properties.
- The strong antioxidant, ‘sesamin’ in sesame seeds work to lower free radical cellular damage, inhibit growth of carcinogenic tissues and prevent colon and stomach cancers.
- Packed with vitamin E, sesame seeds improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles, sunburns and skin dryness. Massaging warm sesame oil on scalp stimulates better hair growth and treats dandruff, brittle hair and scalp infections.
Raw, roasted or powdered, make sesame seeds a healthy addition to your daily diet. Remember sesame seeds are calorie dense, so eating them in moderation as a part of a balanced diet is recommended.