THE FOOD SERIES: Sesame Seeds
One word: tahini!
The tiny, flat, oval-shaped seed with its rich nutty taste and crunch come in many colours; from white, black, red, and yellow, depending on the variety. They are only 3-4 mm long and 2 mm wide, yet they have one of the highest oil content out of any seed.
When purchasing sesame seeds, make sure the there is no evidence of moisture. They should also smell fresh and not rancid of any sort. Hulled sesame seeds are more susceptible to rancidity so make sure to store them in the refrigerator or freezer.
Although they are seeds and not nuts, many people associate sesame seeds like that of nuts. This is because many people may have allergic reactions similar to that of other nuts due to their similar allergenic chemicals and proteins found.
Sesame seeds are considered the oldest oilseed crop, having been cultivated for more than 3500 years! One reason for its long popular history is due to its extremely resilient sesame plant. It is tolerant to harsh conditions such as droughts, growing in places where other crops tend to fail.
Sesamum – is mostly wild and native to sub-Saharan Africa; while the cultivated type – Sesame indicum is originated from India. Many tales in Hindu legends describes sesame seeds as a symbol of immortality.
Today the top sesame seed production countries include Tanzania, India, Sudan, and China.
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, hulled and dried:
1.1 g Carbs
1.1 g Fiber
5.7 g Fat
1.9 g Protein
0.1 mg Copper
0.1 mg Manganese
32.3 mg Magnesium
34.7 mg Phosphorus
Being good sources of copper, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus together provides a host of great health benefits. To start, the presence of copper help reduce some of the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis, this is because it is involved in many anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzyme processes and systems. Magnesium have shown to support our respiratory and vascular systems. For example: preventing airway spasm in asthma, lowering high blood pressure (which thus reduces risks of heart attack, stroke, and diabetic heart disease), and help restore normal sleeping patterns in women experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Beyond these minerals and nutrients, they also contain sesamin and sesamolin which belong to a group of fibers called lignans. These beneficial fibers have been found to lower cholesterol, prevent high blood pressure and increase vitamin E supplies. Sesamin in particular has also been discovered to protect the liver from oxidative damage.
Phytosterols which can be found in plants such as the sesame plant have a similar chemical structure to cholesterol and when consumed they help reduce blood levels of cholesterol, enhance the immune response, and decrease risk of certain cancers.
Other health benefits include: improve digestion, healthy skin and hair, good for bone health, improve anxiety, protection against radiation, good for eye and oral health, and more.
WAYS TO ENJOY
You can top any dish or meal with a sprinkle of sesame seeds! For example, on top of buddha bowls, in your stir fry, baked veggies, on top of your pasta, pizza, salad rolls, sushi, you name it!
For the few people who don’t know what tahini is, it’s actually blended/ground up sesame seeds! Once you have tahini, use it to make hummus, dressings, sauces, other dips; which can then top your salads, veggies, wraps, rolls, sandwiches, and so much more!
Here are some fun recipes to try:
- The phrase “Open sesame” comes from the feature of the sesame pod which bursts open when it reaches maturity.
- There are two main sesame oil varieties: light and dark. The light being made from untoasted sesame seeds; whereas dark is extracted from toasted seeds. Dark sesame seed oil is more commonly used for salad dressings, sauces as well as flavouring purposes.
- Sesame seeds are known as one of the earliest condiments. Adding sesame seeds to baked goods are traced back to early ancient Egyptian times in which bakers would add seeds into bread dough.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES / REFERENCES