Black sesame seeds are recognized as one of the oldest and most useful seeds known and used by the civilizations on this planet. These small, oval, flat seeds come from the sesame plant, a flowering plant that belongs to the Pedaliaceae family. The sesame seed pods naturally burst open when they mature – a distinctive feature from which the famous phrase “open sesame” of Arabian Nights popularity comes from.
Compared to other seeds, black sesame seeds (scientific name: Sesamun indicum) are known to have the most oil content. The oil is known to stay fresh longer; it does not easily turn rancid. The seeds have a subtle nutty flavor which becomes a little more pronounced when you roast the seeds. People like the seeds for their nutty taste, as well as for their delicate, almost imperceptible crunch.
Sesame seeds come in several varieties – brown, yellow, black, and white. Black sesame seeds have a more intense flavor and aroma than the others. They are also the preferred variety for medicinal use. Chinese herbal medicine has been known to use the seeds for ages for their nutritional and therapeutic properties.
Black sesame seeds may be small but they are packed with nutrients. They are rich in the vitamins B and E and thiamine. They contain minerals like copper, manganese, selenium, molybdenum, zinc, iron, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium, as well as tryptophan, an amino acid. They contain the lignans sesamolin and sesamin which are effective antioxidants. They are rich in fiber and phytochemicals (phylosterol). It is not surprising to find that an increasing number of people use the seeds to promote health.
What are the health benefits that black sesame seeds are known for?
1. Black sesame seeds have anti-aging properties.
Chinese herbal medicine recommends the use of the seeds to delay, and even reverse, common signs of aging like loss of hearing, poor memory, grey hair, and poor eyesight. The iron and B vitamins in the seeds help fight these age-related symptoms.
The seeds help prevent the formation of unsightly pigments and wrinkles. They protect the skin from the damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
2. Black sesame seeds are recommended for healthy skin and bones.
The calcium in these seeds help keep bones strong. The zinc helps to strengthen the bones and to increase bone density. The seeds are especially recommended for older men and postmenopausal women who are high-risk candidates for osteoporosis.
Rich in Vitamin E, the seeds also keep the skin vibrant and healthy. Massaging the skin gently with moisturizers to which sesame oil has been added has been found helpful in promoting youthful supple skin.
Sesame oil is recommended for use on babies. A soft gentle massage with the oil helps babies to sleep better. The oil is also helpful for protecting delicate skin against rashes.
3. Black sesame seeds are good for the heart.
The seeds are rich in sesamolin and sesamin, substances recognized for their ability to lower levels of cholesterol. They also contain magnesium which helps check the rise of blood pressure.
Research shows that of all the seeds and nuts commonly consumed in the United States, sesame seeds contain the highest amount of phylosterols.
Phylosterols lower cholesterol levels. Phylosterols from plants and cholesterol from animals have a similar chemical structure. Both go through the body through the same mechanisms – but the body can only absorb so much. If you eat food dense in phylosterols, you tend to absorb a smaller amount of cholesterol. You lessen your LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels – and reduce the risk of heart disease.
4. Black sesame seeds protect against cancer.
The antioxidants (fiber and lignans) and phytochemicals (phylosterol) in the seeds provide protection against certain cancers like cancer of the colon. The seeds also contain sesamin which protects the liver from the damaging effects of free radicals. Having a healthy liver enables the body to detoxify and fight diseases like cancer.
Phylosterols further lower the risk of cancer by strengthening the immune system.
5. Black sesame seeds promote digestive health.
The seeds relieve indigestion and constipation. They contain healthy oils which help lubricate the intestines. The seeds also provide the dietary fiber necessary for healthy digestion.
6. Black sesame seeds aid in lactation.
The seeds are a great help for nursing mothers. They increase supply of breast milk. The calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, B vitamins, unsaturated fat, and protein in the seeds are all beneficial, particularly to women who are lactating.
7. Black sesame seeds reduce anxiety.
The magnesium and calcium in sesame seeds relieve stress. The tryptophan and thiamine in the seeds help in the production of serotonin, a compound present in the human body that helps reduce pain, balance moods, and make deep slumber possible.
8. Black sesame seeds relieve the pain and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
The seeds are rich in copper which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to counter the difficulties presented by the disease. The mineral also helps the enzyme lysyl oxidase to cross-link elastin and collagen, the substances that provide elasticity, strength, and structure to the joints, bones, and blood vessels.
9. Black sesame seeds increase respiratory and vascular health.
The magnesium in the seeds prevents airway spasm in asthmatic patients. It lowers blood pressure, thus helping protect against diabetic heart disease, stroke, and heart attack. It prevents trigeminal spasm of the blood vessels that initiates migraine episodes. It helps restore sleep patterns to normal, thus helping menopausal women get the rest and sleep that oftentimes elude them because of their condition.
10. The calcium in black sesame seeds helps prevent a variety of problems, including premenstrual syndrome and migraine.
There are many ways to include black sesame seeds in your diet so you can enjoy their health benefits. You can bake them sprinkled on top of breads like bagels and enjoy their nutty flavor and delicate crunch. You can also sprinkle them over your cereals or salads or even over desserts like cake and ice-cream. You can blend them into your smoothies or eat them with yoghurt.
More and more people are recognizing the nourishing and health benefits that come from the use of black sesame seeds. The seeds are considered one of the most popular health foods of today, along with turmeric, honey, garlic, lemon, and green tea. They didn’t get that place by luck they receive that honor by being a simple food you can add to your diet that will help you live a longer and healthier life.