You’re probably familiar with canola oil, olive oil, and even avocado oil, but have you ever used sesame oil? A popular cooking oil used in Chinese, Japanese, and Middle Eastern cuisines, sesame oil is made from raw or toasted sesame seeds.
The seeds come from the sesame (Sesamum indicum) plant. The seeds themselves are high in protein and B-vitamins, but sesame oil doesn’t contain the protein or many of the essential vitamins and minerals. It does, however, keep the fatty acids and antioxidants, including vitamin E and phytosterols.
Sesame oils from raw seeds are light in color and have a delicate, neutral flavor. Toasted varieties, on the other hand, are darker, richer, and have a nuttier taste. Both have many culinary applications. Sesame oil is often used to saute meats and vegetables or is added to dressings and marinades.
Sesame oil is believed to have some important health benefits, like providing heart-healthy fats, combating inflammation, and protecting skin from sun damage. More research is needed to fully understand the benefits (and the potential risks) that sesame oil offers.
A one-tablespoon serving of sesame oil contains the following:
- Calories: 120
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 14 grams
- Carbohydrates: 0 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
Sesame oil also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which are polyunsaturated fats. They’re both essential fatty acids that help prevent several diseases, including heart disease and cancer. They also help improve immune function.
Potential Health Benefits of Sesame Oil
Sesame oil is full of antioxidants. Along with vitamin E and phytosterols, it contains lignans, sesamol, and sesaminol. These compounds help fight free radicals in your body, which may reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases.
Potential health benefits of sesame oil include:
Sesame oil has a balanced ratio of omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids. Omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated, while omega-9 fatty acids are monounsaturated. Research shows that a diet containing these healthy fats lowers your risk of developing heart disease.
Many cultures have used sesame oil in traditional medicine as an anti-inflammatory. Traditional Taiwanese medicine has used it to treat joint pain, toothaches, cuts, scrapes, premenstrual cramps, and more.
While more human studies are needed, some test-tube studies have determined sesame oil is effective at lowering inflammatory markers.
Regulated Blood Sugar Levels
Sesame oil may help regulate blood sugar levels. One study found that adults taking sesame oil had reduced fasting blood sugar (your blood sugar after a night of sleep) and hemoglobin A1c (your average blood sugar level over the past two to three months).
The sesamin and vitamin E in sesame oil may benefit your hair. One study found that a supplement containing the two antioxidants improved hair strength and shine.
Sun Damage Prevention
Some research shows that the antioxidants in sesame oil may protect skin against UV damage. Sesame oil resists up to 30% of UV rays, while other oils only resist up to 20%.
Research is limited on this subject. While some sources claim sesame oil may be an effective natural sunscreen, you may want to continue using regular sunscreen to protect your skin from sun damage.
Potential Risks of Sesame Oil
While there are many potential benefits of incorporating sesame oil into your diet, there are a few potential risks to keep in mind. These risks include:
Sesame is now the ninth most common allergen, with approximately 0.2% of the U.S. population allergic to it. While this percentage might not seem significant, sesame oil is almost as common as the top eight allergens.
Although sesame oil contains heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, too much oil can lead to unwanted effects. Sesame oil is high in calories, which can lead to weight gain if eaten in excess.
Sesame oil may positively impact your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. However, if you’re on medications for high blood pressure or diabetes, it may cause your blood pressure or blood sugar to drop too low. You should speak with your doctor before adding sesame oil to your diet.