Health Benefits of Sesame Seeds

Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) is a crop that is grown mainly for the oil in its seeds, which is why it is considered an oilseed. It is native to tropical areas in Asia, Africa, and South America. 

Sesame seeds are rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are commonly added to certain foods to provide a nutty flavor and crunchy texture. 

Sesame seeds are also used as an ingredient in soap, cosmetics, lubricants, and medicines.

Health Benefits

There is a reason people have been growing sesame seeds around the world since prehistoric times—they are good for you in a number of ways. 

Among other health benefits, consuming sesame seeds can help in the following ways:

Lower Your Cholesterol

Sesame seeds contain lignans and phytosterols, which are plant compounds that can help lower cholesterol. Phytosterols are also believed to enhance your immune response and decrease your risk of certain cancers. 

Researchers found that out of all the nuts and seeds commonly eaten in the United States, sesame seeds had the highest total phytosterol content with 400 to 413 milligrams per 100 grams. 

These and other substances in sesame seeds are also known to prevent high blood pressure.

Fight Infections

The sesamin and sesamolin in sesame seeds are known for their antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Antioxidants are important to your health because they protect your body against various diseases by slowing down damage to cells. 

The antibacterial activity of sesame seeds is proven to fight against staph infections and strep throat as well as common skin fungi, such as athlete’s foot.

Oral Health

Sesame seeds can also get rid of the bacteria that cause plaque on your teeth. An ancient practice called oil pulling is shown to improve your oral hygiene and health when practiced regularly and correctly. Sesame oil is one of the most common oils used in this practice, which involves swishing a tablespoon of oil around your mouth when you wake up in the morning.

Aid in Diabetes Treatment

Research shows that the oil of sesame seeds enhances the effectiveness of traditional type 2 diabetes medications when they are taken together. 

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Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease that doesn’t allow your body to make insulin in the way it should. One aspect of this condition is high blood sugar, which is called hyperglycemia. Eating healthy foods like sesame seeds can help people with type 2 diabetes reach their target blood sugar levels. Additionally, the antioxidants in sesame oil reduce the amount of sugar in your blood.

Help Prevent and Treat Cancer

The sesamol in sesame seeds has the following properties:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-mutagenic (stops the mutation of cells)
  • Anti-hepatotoxic (prevents liver damage)
  • Anti-inflammatory (fights inflammation)
  • Anti-aging
  • Chemopreventive (prevents disease and infection)

Each of these properties plays a role in cancer prevention and therapy. Sesamol may also have the ability to regulate apoptosis (cell death), which means that it contains the potential to target cells at various stages of the cell cycle. However, more research is needed to confirm this particular use of sesame seeds.

Nutrition

Sesame seeds contain a variety of healthy nutrients. As a rich source of protein, they are a great addition to vegetarian and vegan diets.

They’re also packed with copper, which helps make and red blood cells and also supports your immune system function. In fact, just one cup of dried sesame seeds gives you 163% of your daily value of copper.

Sesame seeds are an excellent source of manganese and calcium, both of which help your bones grow healthy and strong. Calcium also plays a role in nerve signal transmission, muscle movement, blood vessel function, and hormone release.

Other vitamins and minerals found in sesame seeds include:

Nutrients per Serving

A quarter-cup serving of dried sesame seeds contains:

Things to Watch Out For

Because sesame seeds contain a high amount of fiber, eating too many of them may cause bowel obstructions—when something blocks your large or small intestine—in people who have a large stricture, or narrowing of the bowel.

For people with this issue, sesame seeds may also cause ischemia—when your body doesn’t get enough blood—or perforation (a small hole or tear).

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How to Prepare Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds can be found in a number of different colors, including brown, red, black, yellow, and ivory. Many people say that the darker seeds have the most flavor.

In European and North American cuisines, sesame seeds are mostly used as a garnish for savory dishes, bread, and pastries. However, Asian, South American, and African cuisines feature sesame seeds more heavily in both sweet and savory dishes.

Sesame seeds can be eaten raw, or they can be baked or toasted to bring out more of their natural nutty flavor. They are a common topping on bagels, burger buns, salads, and breadsticks. They can also be tossed into salads. Tahini, which is a main ingredient in hummus, is made from ground sesame seeds.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 30, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

Agriculturae Conspectus Scientificus: "Nutritional, Medicinal and Industrial Uses of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) Seeds - An Overview."

Clinical Nutrition: "Sesame oil exhibits synergistic effect with anti-diabetic medication in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus."

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Seeds, sesame, whole, dried.”

European Journal of Pharmacology: "Sesamol, a major lignan in sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum): Anti-cancer properties and mechanisms of action."

Harvard Health Publishing: "Seed of the month: Sesame seeds."

Journal of Food Science and Technology: "Bioactive lignans from sesame (Sesamum indicum L.): evaluation of their antioxidant and antibacterial effects for food applications."

Journal of Medical Case Reports: “Large bowel obstruction due to sesame seed bezoar: a case report.”
Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine: “Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene — A review.”
National Institutes of Health: “Calcium.”
National Institutes of Health: “Magnesium.”
The World's Healthiest Foods: "Sesame seeds."

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