The diminutive seed with nutritional might
Throughout Asia, sesame seeds have long been revered for their ability to promote health and longevity. This reverence is not unwarranted. Current research suggests the delicate seeds can enhance human health in myriad ways, and they may help mitigate the effects of aging.
When you consider their nutrient density, it’s hardly surprising that sesame seeds have huge health benefits. The tiny seeds are teeming with B-complex vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus. Plus, they boast a good amount of fibre and heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. What’s more, sesame seeds play host to a unique mix of lignans (certain plant-based antioxidants) that have been shown to help protect us from a variety of chronic ailments.
Studies indicate sesame seeds and sesame oil may help prevent heart disease—a major risk factor of diabetes. Sesame delivers its cardio-protective effect by lowering blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol and by inhibiting atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries). In one study, type 2 diabetics who ate tahini (sesame paste) with their breakfast for six weeks showed significant decreases in the heart-disease-promoting index of plasma.
Lab research has discovered that a lignan in sesame seeds called sesamin shows promise in combating breast, lung, gallbladder, and skin cancer by inhibiting tumour growth and inducing cancer cell apoptosis (cell death).
Sesame seeds may also help protect your brain. Emerging animal research suggests sesamin can provide significant neuroprotection by ameliorating the effects of brain injuries, seizures, and stroke, and by helping to suppress the production of brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Thankfully, these delicious seeds can be enjoyed in a variety of ways that will enhance your family’s meals—and their health. Here are just a few sesame seed recipes to warm up to.
To reap the health benefits of sesame seeds, regular consumption is key. So why limit your intake to the occasional spoonful of hummus that’s rich in tahini (sesame seed paste) or an indulgent nibble of sesame brittle? There are plenty of delicious and healthy ways to incorporate sesame seeds into your culinary repertoire.
If you want to boost your intake of sesamin—an important antioxidant in sesame—you can also supplement with it. Speak with your health care practitioner to determine if this is right for you.