London: Sesame seeds add a nutty taste and a delicate, almost invisible, crunch to many Asian dishes. They are also the main ingredients in tahini (sesame seed paste) and the wonderful Middle Eastern sweet call halvah. They are available throughout the year.
Sesame seeds may be the oldest condiment known to man. They are highly valued for their oil which is exceptionally resistant to rancidity. “Open sesame”—the famous phrase from the Arabian Nights—reflects the distinguishing feature of the sesame seed pod, which bursts open when it reaches maturity. The scientific name for sesame seeds is Sesamun indicum.
Not only are sesame seeds an excellent source of copper and a very good source of manganese, but they are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and dietary fiber. In addition to these important nutrients, sesame seeds contain two unique substances: sesamin and sesamolin.
Both of these substances belong to a group of special beneficial fibers called lignans, and have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans and to prevent high blood pressure and increase vitamin E supplies in animals. Sesamin has also been found to protect the liver from oxidative damage.
Rich In Beneficial Minerals
Sesame seeds are an excellent source of copper, a very good source of manganese, and a good source of magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, molybdenum, and selenium. This rich assortment of minerals translates into the following health benefits:
Health Benefits of Using Sesame Seeds with Brown Sugar
Copper Provides Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Copper is known for its use in reducing some of the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis. Copper’s effectiveness is due to the fact that this trace mineral is important in a number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzyme systems. In addition, copper plays an important role in the activity of lysyl oxidase, an enzyme needed for the cross-linking of collagen and elastin—the ground substances that provide structure, strength, and elasticity in blood vessels, bones and joints.
Zinc for Bone Health
Another reason for older men to make zinc-rich foods such as sesame seeds a regular part of their healthy way of eating is bone mineral density. Although osteoporosis is often thought to be a disease for which postmenopausal women are at highest risk, it is also a potential problem for older men. Almost 30% of hip fractures occur in men, and 1 in 8 men over age 50 will have an osteoporotic fracture. A study of 396 men ranging in age from 45-92 that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a clear correlation between low dietary intake of zinc, low blood levels of the trace mineral, and osteoporosis at the hip and spine.
Sesame Seeds’ Phytosterols Lower Cholesterol
Phytosterols are compounds found in plants that have a chemical structure very similar to cholesterol, and when present in the diet in sufficient amounts, are believed to reduce blood levels of cholesterol, enhance the immune response and decrease risk of certain cancers.
Phytosterols beneficial effects are so dramatic that they have been extracted from soybean, corn, and pine tree oil and added to processed foods, such as “butter”-replacement spreads, which are then touted as cholesterol-lowering “foods.” But why settle for an imitation “butter” when Mother Nature’s nuts and seeds are a naturally rich source of phytosterols—and cardio-protective fiber, minerals, and healthy fats as well?
In a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers published the amounts of phytosterols present in nuts and seeds commonly eaten in the United States.