Sesame seeds are the oldest condiment known to mankind. It’s nutty and fragrant seed variant. It adds a lovely crunch to many Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. Both these races are known for longevity (1).
The benefits of sesame are not just culinary but this nutrient dense condiment is good for our bodies as well. Sesame seeds include a combination of vitamins and minerals which make it one of the healthiest foods in the world.
Let’s look at how sesame is beneficial for us and how we can include it into our daily diet.
What are Sesame Seeds?
Sesame seeds are probably one of the first oilseeds known to mankind.
Sesame plant is a flowering plant belonging to the Pedaliaceae family. These seeds have the highest oil content among all seeds and a delicate nutty flavour which becomes more pronounced when they are roasted under low temperature for few minutes.
These seeds can be consumed in raw or dried form or even as roasted snacks. They are used as an ingredient in several cuisines.
Dry roasted sesame seeds are ground with olive into a thin light brown colour paste called known as ‘Tahini’ which is a popular middle-eastern dip. In Europe, they are commonly used in the manufacture of margarine.
There are several varieties of sesame seeds depending upon the type of cultivar such as white, black and brown seeds.
White sesame seeds have higher iron content than black ones and are mostly used as ingredients in food or in the form of oil.
Black sesame seeds are more flavourful and have a stronger aroma than white or brown sesame seeds and are preferably used in medicines. They contain 60% more calcium than white ones.
White sesame seeds are hulled whereas black and brown ones retain their hulls.
Health Benefits of Sesame Seeds:
In addition to their culinary uses, these seeds possess nutritive, preventive and curative properties which render them usable in traditional medicines. Sesame seed oil is a rich source of phytonutrients such as omega-6 fatty acids, flavonoid phenolic antioxidants, vitamins and dietary fibre. These seeds, thus, offer a variety of benefits.Sesame seeds health benefits include the following:
1. High Protein Vegetarian Diet:
Sesame seeds are a good source of dietary protein with high quality amino acids making up 20% of the seed. Thus, they are perfect to form part of a high protein vegetarian diet (2). Just sprinkle them over your salads, subzis and noodles.
2. Prevents Diabetes:
Sesame seeds contain magnesium and other nutrients that have been shown to combat diabetes. Usage of sesame seed oil as the sole edible oil has been found to be effective in lowering blood pressure and plasma glucose in hypersensitive diabetics (3).
3. Cures Anemia:
Sesame seeds, particularly the black ones are rich in iron. Hence, they are highly recommended for those suffering from anemia and weakness (4).
4. Cardiovascular Health:
Sesame seed oil prevents atherosclerotic lesions and hence, is beneficial for heart health.
They contain an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound called sesamol which also exhibits anti-atherogenic properties, thus improving cardiovascular health.
Sesame seeds are high in monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid which helps in lowering bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol in the body. This prevents the risk of coronary artery disease and strokes (5).
5. Anti-cancer Properties:
Sesame seeds contain magnesium which has anti-cancer properties. They also contain an anti-cancer compound called phytate. Sesame seeds for health have proven to be effective in reducing the risk of colorectal tumors, thus preventing colorectal cancer (6).
6. Digestive Health:
Sesame seeds support a healthy digestive system and colon as they are rich in fiber. This high fiber content helps to smooth the functioning of the intestine, thus facilitating waste disposal and relieving constipation (7).
7. Relief from Rheumatoid Arthritis:
Sesame seeds contain copper, a mineral that is vital for antioxidant enzyme systems, thus reducing pain and swelling associated with arthritis. Besides, this mineral provides strength to blood vessels, bones and joints (8).
8. Respiratory Health:
Magnesium contained in sesame seeds prevents asthma and other respiratory disorders by preventing airway spasms (9).
9. Protection from Radiation Damage:
Sesamol found in sesame seeds and sesame oil has been found to prevent the DNA from being damaged by radiation. It also prevents damage to the intestines and spleen.
10. Bone Health:
Sesame seeds contain zinc which boosts bone mineral density as well as bone health. Deficiency of this mineral can cause osteoporosis in the hip and spine area. Sesame seeds are a great source of calcium, a trace mineral that is vital to bone health (10).
11. Oral Health:
Sesame seeds and sesame seed oil help in boosting oral health by removing dental plaque and whitening your teeth. Oil pulling, i.e. swishing your sesame seed oil in your mouth can reduce the amount of streptococcus mutants in both teeth and mouth saliva and boost overall health (11).
12. Nullify the Effects of Alcohol:
Sesame seeds help the liver to decompose the harmful effects of alcohol as well as other substances that generates poisoning in the body.
13. Treatment of Anxiety:
Sesame seeds contain several nutrients that have stress relieving properties (12).
Minerals like magnesium and calcium act as an antispasmodic by regulating muscle function i.e. contraction and relaxation.
Thiamin (vitamin B1) has calming properties which aid in proper nerve functioning. Deficiency of this vitamin can lead to muscle spasms, moodiness and depression.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is involved in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that reduces pain and regulates sleep pattern and mood. Inadequacy of serotonin production and transmission in the brain can result in anxiety and depression.
14. Lowers Cholesterol:
Black sesame seeds benefits in lowering cholesterol levels. They contain two substances called sesamin and sesamolin which belong to a group of fiber called lignans. Lignans have a cholesterol lowering effect as they are rich in dietary fiber (13).
Black sesame seeds also contain plant compounds called phytosterols which have structure similar to that of cholesterol. Their consumption not only decreases blood cholesterol levels but also reduces the risk of developing certain types of cancer.
Sesame seeds have the highest phytosterol content of all seeds and nuts.
15. Eye Health:
According to traditional Chinese medicine, there is a strong relationship between the internal organs and external parts such as the eyes (14) and liver (15).
The liver stores blood and since a certain branch of the liver channel goes to the eyes, the liver can also send blood to the eyes to support their functioning.
Black sesame seeds are beneficial for liver as they increase liver blood, thereby nourishing the eyes. Their therapeutic effects help in treating blurred vision and tired, dry eyes.
16. Nourish the Organs:
Black sesame seeds have been found to increase energy, nourish the brain and slow down ageing. Regular consumption of black sesame seeds can help to reduce the symptoms of backache, painful or tight and stiff joints and weakness in the joints.
Skin Benefits of Sesame Seeds:
Sesame is rich in powerful antioxidants and possesses antibacterial and antiviral properties. It offers several benefits to your skin by bringing blood and nourishment. The oil extracted from sesame seeds is rich in omega 6, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins B and E which has been used as the product of beautification. Know how sesame seeds for skin are beneficial.
17. Healing Properties:
Sesame seed oil is a natural anti-inflammatory agent and has excellent healing properties. Its antibacterial properties (16) help to get rid of skin pathogens like staphylococcus and streptococcus as well as common skin fungi such as athlete’s foot fungus. Sesame seed oil mixed with warm water can control vaginal yeast infections.
18. Treatment of Sunburns:
When used after exposure to wind or sun, sesame seed oil can treat suntans. It prevents the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun from damaging your skin, thus preventing the appearance of wrinkles and pigmentation. Regular usage of this oil significantly reduces the risk of skin cancer (17) and prevents the skin from the effects of chlorine in swimming pool water.
19. Skin Detoxifier:
The antioxidants contained in sesame seed oil help in detoxifying your skin (18). When applied on skin, the molecules of this oil attract oil soluble toxins which can be washed away with hot water and soap.
Mix half a cup sesame seed oil with half a cup apple cider vinegar and a quarter cup water.
This should be applied every night after splashing your face with water.
You should include sesame seed oil in your beauty regime
20. Suitable for Babies:
Baby skin, particularly the area covered with diapers often gets rashes due to the acidity of body wastes. Sesame seed oil protects their tender skin against these rashes (19). Applying it to the nose and ears provides protection against common skin pathogens. It also combats dryness of skin.
21. Glowing Skin:
Sesame seed oil can provide you with glowing skin. It maintains skin flexibility by keeping it soft and supple, and heals the areas of mild cuts, scrapes and abrasions.
It helps tighten the facial skin, particularly the area around the nose and control the enlargement of pores.
It also controls eruptions and neutralizes the poisons which develop on the surface as well as in the pores.
You can also try a facial for glowing skin.
Massage your face thoroughly with sesame seed oil and scrub your face with rice or besan powder before washing off with warm water.
Later, splash your face with cold water to close the pores.
22. Treatment of Cracked Heels:
If you have cracked heels or sore feet, you can apply sesame seed oil every night before going to bed and cover your feet with cotton socks. This should be done for a couple of days to get soft and supple feet (20).
Hair Benefits of Sesame Seeds:
Sesame seeds are packed with vitamins, nutrients and minerals which are vital for the maintenance of healthy scalp and hair. Just like skin, sesame seed oil has beneficial effects on your scalp, thus combating various scalp problems. Their benefits for scalp are as follows.
23. Encourage Hair Growth:
Sesame seeds for hair contain essential fatty acids such as omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 which promote hair growth. Sesame seed oil stimulates hair growth by nourishing, conditioning and promoting a healthy scalp. Regular massage with warm sesame oil penetrates your scalp, thus increasing blood circulation. It is comparable to a liquid vitamin that feeds your hair roots and shafts (21).
24. Prevention of Scalp Problems:
Sesame seeds are rich in replenishing vitamins, minerals and nutrients which are vital for healthy scalp. Massaging your scalp with sesame seed oil combats dryness, flakiness and clogged pores that cause hair thinning and hair loss. Besides, its antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help in treating scalp infections and dandruff as well as soothing irritated scalp.
25. Natural Sunscreen:
Sesame seed oil acts as a natural sunscreen for your hair by protecting it from the damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays and pollution.
26. Deep Conditioning:
Sesame seed oil acts as a deep conditioning treatment for dry, damaged hair, split ends or chemically treated hair. It restores lost moisture and strengthens hair shaft, enabling dull and brittle hair to regain its shine, bounce, elasticity and softness.
27. Hair Darkening Qualities:
Sesame seed oil is known for its hair darkening qualities which make it effective for people suffering from premature greying of hair. It can be used with carrier oils like olive or almond oil to reap the maximum benefits.
Nutritional Value of Sesame Seeds:
All varieties of sesame seeds are extremely nutritious. They have a high oil content of 40% to 60%. They are a rich source of minerals like copper and manganese. They also contain magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, selenium, vitamin B1 and zinc, and are rich in dietary fiber and monounsaturated fats. Their nutritional profile is explained below.
Sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum), whole, dried,
Nutritional value per 100 g. (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 573 Kcal 29%
Carbohydrates 23.45 g 18%
Protein 17.73 g 32%
Total Fat 49.67 g 166%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 11.8 g 31%
Folates 97 µg 25%
Niacin 4.515 mg 28%
Pantothenic acid 0.050 mg 1%
Pyridoxine 0.790 mg 61%
Riboflavin 0.247 mg 19%
Thiamin 0.791 mg 66%
Vitamin A 9 IU <1%
Vitamin C 0 0%
Vitamin E 0.25 mg 2%
Sodium 11 mg 1%
Potassium 468 mg 10%
Calcium 975 mg 98%
Copper 4.082 mg 453%
Iron 14.55 mg 182%
Magnesium 351 mg 88%
Manganese 2.460 mg 107%
Phosphorus 629 mg 90%
Selenium 34.4 µg 62.5%
Zinc 7.75 mg 70%
Carotene-ß 5 µg —
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 µg —
Lutein-zeaxanthin 0 µg —
Calories: An ounce of raw dried sesame seeds contains around 163 calories and 14.11 grams of fats including 1.96 grams saturated fats. Roasted sesame seeds, on the other hand, contain 160 calories and 13.61 grams of fats including 1.09 grams saturated fats. Both raw and roasted sesame seeds are cholesterol free.
Protein: Sesame seeds are a great vegetarian source of protein. An ounce of raw dry sesame seeds contain 5.03 grams of protein whereas roasted ones contain 4.81 grams. However, one cannot solely rely upon sesame seeds as a source of protein as actual amount of protein derived is far less.
Vitamins: Both raw and roasted sesame seeds are devoid of vitamins A, C, D, E or K. An ounce of raw or roasted sesame seeds contains 0.22 mg of thiamin which is 19% of daily value and 0.07 mg of riboflavin which is equivalent to 6% of daily value for adults.
Minerals: An ounce of dried sesame seeds provides 291 mg of calcium, 4.l13 mg of iron and 9.77 mg selenium satisfying 29.1% of the daily value of calcium and 18 % of the daily value of selenium for adults. It also satisfies 23% and more than 50% of the recommended daily value of iron for women and men respectively. Roasted sesame seeds have a comparatively lower mineral content than their raw counterparts.
Sesame seeds are packed full of essential nutrients. Try and include it in your diet and you will see the benefits. You can try and use sesame oil as cooking base as well. No wonder then when the popular adage comes to our mind – big things do come in small packages.