If you think sesame seeds are only good for adding texture to bagels or other breads, then you’re in for a surprise. These tiny toppings might not get the attention that other seeds get, but they are associated with a lot of health benefits. Read on to find out why you should think twice about this humble seed – one that is packed with nutrients.
What Are Sesame Seeds, Exactly?
Sesame seeds come from the Sesamum indicum plant, which is typically found in Africa and India. When ripe, the pods of the plant are very sensitive to touch, splitting open under the slightest pressure. There are usually about 50-100 seeds in each pod. Sesame seeds get their flavor and color from the light roasting that takes place before they are ready to ship.1
Sesame seeds contain several nutrients, namely calcium, vitamin E, copper, zinc, protein, magnesium, iron, and manganese.2 They also contain substances known as lignans – compounds which are associated with a wide range of health benefits. Lignans, for example, could help people suffering from kidney issues. They might also have antioxidant properties.3
Health Benefits Galore
Whether you consume black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, or use sesame seed oil, you enjoy several health benefits. Here are just a few of them:
1. Blood Sugar Mana
People who have difficulty controlling the level of sugar in their blood are susceptible to many debilitating health problems. But if you want help keeping your healthy blood sugar levels on course, sesame seeds could help.
And if you’re already struggling from blood sugar irregularity, you may find a recent study interesting: In the study, people who used sesame seed oil for cooking or on their salads, along with their regular medication, saw substantial reductions in blood glucose levels.4
2. Joint support
Everyone struggles with joint pain at one time or another. It’s part of getting older, or leading an active lifestyle. But what if sesame seeds could help? In one study, participants with severe knee pain were given about four tablespoons of powdered sesame seeds, along with their regular medication, for two months. Researchers found that this group reported substantially greater relief from their symptoms than those who took medication alone.5
3. Antioxidant Properties
Sesame seeds contain antioxidants, which are important because they protect the body against free radicals damage (or oxidative stress.)6
An analysis of several trials showed that sesame seeds could reduce the damage caused by oxidative stress in people with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and blood sugar issues. The researchers found that both black sesame seeds and white sesame seeds raise the levels of antioxidants in the body.7
4. Blood Pressure Management
People with high blood pressure are at risk for suffering serious cardiovascular problems. But sesame seeds could help provide protection. A study showed that people on the verge of hypertension, or high blood pressure, who ate black sesame seeds for one month had substantially lower pressure readings.8 Another study showed that people who took sesame seed oil supplements for 45 days saw significantly reduced blood pressure as well.9
5. Cholesterol Maintenance
If LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or “bad,”cholesterol accumulates in the arteries, it can cause plaque buildup that may lead to severe heart problems.10 People participating in a study who consumed an ounce and a half of white sesame seeds daily for 60 days saw a 10 percent reduction in their LDL cholesterol.11
6. Promoting Proper Hormonal Balance
Some studies suggest sesame seed lignans could help women regulate estrogen levels after menopause. Researchers looked at post-menopausal women who ingested 50 grams of sesame seed powder daily for five weeks. The women saw an increase in enterolactone, a substance that has estrogen-like properties. It is believed this occurred due to sesamin, the main lignan found in sesame seeds.12
7. Boosting Heart Health
One of the most important health benefits of the lignans found in sesame seeds is that they may help protect the heart.
They play a role in helping to prevent a condition known as atherosclerosis, more commonly referred to as hardening of the arteries.13
8. Promoting Brain Health
Sesame seed oil contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, which help to promote normal functioning of the brain. These fats may help people avoid the onset of cognitive decline.14
9. Softer Skin
Sesame seed oil is rich in vitamin E, which helps make the skin soft. In addition, it has antibacterial properties that help protect the skin from potentially severe bacterial infections.15 Sesame seed oil not only helps reduce the discomfort of skin conditions, it also may help to protect the skin against the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays.16
10. Keeping Bones Strong
Another one of the vital health benefits of sesame seeds is that they contain calcium. This mineral is critical to making sure that our bones not only develop properly, but they also stay strong as we get older.17
11. Helping Babies Sleep Better
If you have a young one, you know how hard it can be sometimes to get them to sleep through the night. Many people in India actually use sesame seed oil for this purpose. And science backs this idea up. In one study, infants who received a sesame seed oil massage slept better than those who either didn’t receive a massage, or were given a massage with other oils or herbs.18
12. Improved Digestion
Sesame seeds’ health benefits may even extend to your digestive tract. Since they’re high in fiber, these seeds can help the intestines work properly, improving digestion and helping to alleviate constipation.19
13. Oral Health Improvement
Sesame seed oil can also help whiten teeth and remove plaque. A process known as “oil pulling,” which is basically just swishing the oil around in your mouth, can help eliminate harmful bacteria.
14. Respiratory Health Benefits
The magnesium found in sesame seeds helps to ensure the bronchial muscles contract properly. In fact, many people suffering from breathing problems also have a magnesium deficiency. Studies show that people who take supplements containing this vital nutrient often find relief from their symptoms.21
15. Anxiety Reduction
Millions of people suffer from anxiety issues. Many sufferers have a lack of zinc in their system.22Ten tablespoons of sesame seeds (about 100 g) contain nearly 8 milligrams (mg) of zinc.23 Adults should get between 8-12 mg of zinc a day, while children should get between 2-11 mg a day, depending on their age.24
The Bottom Line
As you can see, the health benefits of sesame seeds are plentiful. You can include them in a number of different types of dishes, including salads, soups, and even pastries. Sesame seeds lend a light, nutty crunch to virtually anything!
Of course, sesame seeds should not be used instead of prescribed medication. Talk to your doctor before adding sesame seeds to your diet, especially if you plan on using them to boost health.
Want more health tips, keep reading here:
Purple Graze: Why You Should Add Purple Foods To Your Plate
6 Reasons You Should Try Teff Grain (especially if you’re gluten-free)
Dates: Why You Should Add This Ancient Fruit To Your Diet