Sesame seed is one of the oldest oilseed crops known, domesticated well over 3000 years ago. Sesame has many species, most being wild and native to sub-Saharan Africa. Sesame indicum, the cultivated type, originated in India and is tolerant to drought-like conditions, growing where other crops fail.
Sesame seeds occur in many colours depending on the cultivar. The most traded variety of sesame is off-white coloured. Other common colours are buff, tan, gold, brown, reddish, gray, and black.
Sesame seed is a common ingredient in various cuisines. It is used whole in cooking for its rich, nutty flavour.
Sesame seeds are full of vitamins, minerals, natural oils, and organic compounds which consist of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, zinc, fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, protein and tryptophan. Sesame seeds contain the plant compound sesamin, which has been shown to lower cholesterol. Copper has anti-inflammatory properties. Sesame has one of the highest oil contents of any seed.
Tip: Hulled seeds contain 60% less calcium than unhulled seeds.
Health benefits of sesame seeds include:
- Rich in beneficial minerals
- Provides relief for rheumatoid arthritis
- Prevents the airway spasm in asthma
- Lowers high blood pressure, a contributing factor in heart attack, stroke, and diabetic heart disease
- Prevents the trigeminal blood vessel spasm that triggers migraine attacks
- Helps to prevent colon cancer, osteoporosis, migraine, PMS and gallstones
- Supports bone health
- Lowers cholesterol
NOTE: Sesame seeds and sesame oil are a serious allergen to some people, including infants.
Sesame seeds are sometimes added to breads, including bagels and the tops of hamburger buns. Sesame seeds may be baked into crackers, often in the form of sticks. In Sicily and France, the seeds are eaten on bread (ficelle sésame, sesame thread). In Greece, the seeds are also used in cakes.
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