Sesame (sesamum indicum) is an annual flowering herb belonging to the Pedaliaceae family. The plant is thought to have originated in India and the seeds were one of the first crops processed for its flavorful oil. Sesame has been around for a long time and its use as a condiment dates back to Egyptian times.
The sesame plant grows best in sandy soil and needs warm temperatures to grow. The plant can be started indoors, about 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost. Once established and planted outdoors, it can grow up to five feet tall with white or pink flowers. After flowering, seed pods can be seen and each can contain up to 100 seeds. When the pods dry out the seeds can easily be removed. Because the outer skins contain calcium but also an acid and can be irritating if eaten, some people need to have them hulled first to prevent irritation. Once hulled, they are easier to digest. The seeds are white, brown, or black depending upon the cultivar type, and have a nice nutty flavor.
Sesame seeds are incredibly rich in vitamins and minerals and are a valuable source of protein and amino acids. They are very high in calcium, containing 88mg in just 1 tablespoon of seeds and they have plenty of iron, manganese, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and copper. Sesame seeds contain many B vitamins along with Vitamin E. And one tablespoon has just 52 calories!
Considered a superfood by some, sesame seeds have many health benefits, and here are just a few.
A high calcium and zinc content make sesame seeds great for reducing the incidence of osteoporosis and improving bone density. One quarter cup unhulled seeds has the same amount of calcium as 1 cup of milk.
Headaches and Migraines
Calcium, abundant in sesame seeds, plays a role in taming headaches and preventing migraines.
Sesame seed oil also contains sesamol, a compound containing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. This slows down plaque buildup and helps lower bad cholesterol while elevating the good cholesterol . Sesame oil decreases the incidence of coronary artery disease and stroke.
Sesame seeds are good for vegetarians. Besides protein, they have plenty of B vitamins, one of the vitamins lacking in vegetarian diets. B vitamins are extremely important to the brain and nerve function.
Sesame seeds are a good source of iron. One-quarter cup contains about 30% of the daily recommendation.
Copper is known to decrease the painful swelling and discomfort of rheumatoid arthritis – and sesame seeds are an excellent source of copper.
Fiber helps to prevent colon cancer and sesame seeds are full of fiber. Fiber also helps you to feel full so it helps in weight loss. Calcium also helps in the prevention of colon cancer.
High in Vitamin E and zinc, sesame is good for improving circulation to the skin. Sesame oil is good for clearing blemishes and it can help prevent sunburn with its SPF4. It can also help soothe your burn if you have one already!
Sesame oil can be used for oil pulling, an ancient practice to clean and detoxify the mouth, teeth and gums. This is done by taking a tablespoon of oil and swishing it around in your mouth before spitting it out.
Sesame seeds are typically found on bagels and breads. They can be sprinkled on salads, in stir fry dishes, vegetables, meats – anything! Tahini is a Middle Eastern dish made out of dried, roasted sesame that is ground into a paste with vegetable oil and is a main ingredient in hummus. Halvah (or halavah), is a sweet, candy-like confection of Turkish origin, consisting chiefly of ground sesame seeds and honey.
Sesame seeds may be small, but they are big in benefits. They are amazingly healthful and easy to eat! Do you like sesame seeds? How do you enjoy them?