Archaeological excavations indicate that sesame seed oil is one of the oldest oilseed crops known to date. Findings show the first domestication of sesame seed in the Indian region, dating back far before 3000 BC. The Sesamum (Sesame) plant has several species – many of them wild – most of which originate the sub-Saharan areas of Africa. Sesamum Indicum, the cultivated type, originates in India. Sesame, also known as “survival crop”, grows where other crops fail and needs little agricultural support. Sesamum grows in dry conditions, but just as well in high temperatures with residual moisture in the soil after monsoon has passed. It will thrive even in either the absence of rain or excessive rainfall.
Sesame is widely cultivated in tropical regions across the world for its edible seeds, which grow in pods. Sesame oil is obtained from the seeds by cold press method.
From all seeds known, the amount of oil contained in Sesame seeds is one of the highest. The rich taste of sesame seeds with its nutty flavour, is worldwide used as ingredient in many cuisines. Like other seeds, for some it may trigger allergic reactions.
Sesame Seed Oil or “Pure”
The name “Ellu” is said to be found in evidence of sesame seed trade between ancient Mesopotamia and the Indian regions. The Mesopotamian word “Ellu” means “pure” – but also it means “sesame oil”!
Findings of sesame seed cultivation in Egypt go back as far as 1600 BC. Sesame seed was listed as “Sesemt” in the scrolls of Ebers Papyrus – one of the oldest known medical works (dated around 1500 BC), containing formulas and folk remedies to cure a wide range of afflictions. Moreover, these scrolls contain a surprisingly accurate description of the human circulatory system, mentioning the existence of blood vessels throughout the body and its very centre of blood supply – the heart.
Sesame Seed Oil – main Health Advantages
Now knowing some of its history, let’s have a closer look at sesame seeds and which advantages Sesame Seed Oil can add to your health.
The edible hull of sesame seeds gives the seeds a golden-brown hue, without the husk the hulled seeds have an off-white colour but turn brown when roasted. Sesame seed oil is obtained by cold pressing the seeds, preserving the nutritional value of the seeds in a now concentrated substance. The numerous potential health benefits of sesame seed oil have been known and used in folk medicine for thousands of years. Among others, they can protect against heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
Sesame Seed Oil for Blood Health
Triglyceride and Cholesterol – Triglyceride is a type of fat (or lipid), used by the body as a source and storage of energy. Triglyceride is produced by the liver, but is also obtained from certain foods; its levels in the blood are influenced by our diet. Burning too few calories can cause a build-up and elevated levels of triglycerides in the blood. In general, higher triglyceride levels cause lower HDL (aka, “good”) cholesterol – influencing potential risks of cardiovascular disease. The intake of sesame seed oil may promote reducing triglyceride levels and at the same time decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Blood Pressure – High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The high content of magnesium in sesame seed oil may help lower blood pressure. Additionally, lignans, vitamin E and other antioxidants in sesame seeds help to prevent plaque build-up in your arteries, potentially maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
Blood Sugar Control – Sesame seeds and oil are known to be low in carbohydrates while the amount of proteins and healthy fats are high. This is a good combination for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. In addition, sesame seeds contain pinoresinol, a substance that helps regulate blood sugar by inhibiting the action of the digestive enzyme maltase. This enzyme breaks down sugar maltose, a product that is used as a sweetener in various foods, but it is also made in the intestines during the digestion process of starchy foods such as bread and pasta. Inhibiting the action of this enzyme maltese by pinoresinol, may lead to lower blood sugar levels.
Formation of Blood Cells – Sesame seed oil is loaded with iron and copper, and a good amount of vitamin B6. In order to be able to formate and proper function of red blood cells, these nutrients are vital to the body. Soaked, roasted or sprouted sesame seeds may even increase absorption of these minerals by the body.
Sesame Seed Oil and Immune System
Sesame seeds and sesame seed oil are perfect sources of a various range of nutrients that are vital for a well-functioning immune system! Below are just a few important nutrients, large amounts of which can be found in sesame seed oil, that contribute to a healthy immune system.
- Zinc ensures, among others, the build-up of proteins, growth and renewal of body tissue, a good metabolism and proper functioning of the immune system.
- Selenium (a trace element) is found in the liver and protects red blood cells and other cells from damage. It also makes heavy metals, which sometimes end up in food, less toxic. Selenium is also important for a proper functioning of the thyroid gland.
- Copper (also a trace element) is involved in the formation of connective tissue and bones. It ensures production of pigment in the hair, a well-functioning immune system and for coagulation of blood. Copper in the body is also involved in the transfer of oxygen (oxidation reactions).
- Iron is a mineral that is important in the formation of haemoglobin, part of the red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also needed to produce energy in our cells and iron contributes to healthy functioning of the immune system. Iron deficiency can lead to anaemia.
- Vitamin B6 is important for metabolism, especially in the breakdown and build-up of amino acids. Amino acids, in turn, are the building blocks of proteins. Certain hormones are regulated by vitamin B6 and are necessary for growth, blood production, a healthy immune system and nervous system.
- Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, it acts as an antioxidant and protects cells, blood vessels, organs, eyes and other tissue. Vitamin E also plays a role in regulating the metabolism within the cells.
Sesame Seed Oil to Reduce Inflammation
Studies suggest that consuming sesame seeds and sesame seed oil may increase the overall amount of antioxidant activity in your blood.
Sesame seed oil contains 87% unsaturated fatty acids, many valuable antioxidants and is rich in vitamin E. It is scientifically known that antioxidants play an important role in the prevention of inflammation. Cold-pressed sesame oil contains significantly more of the major lignans (a non-fat constituent) Sesamin and Sesamoln than refined sesame oil. These lignans have an anti-inflammatory effect.
The antioxidants in sesame seed oil have a detoxifying effect on bacteria-induced “poisoning”, also known as an inflammatory response. Even against bacteria that irritate the gums by free radicals, the antioxidants have an anti-inflammatory effect. Sesame seed oil has actually been used as oral care in folk medicine for thousands of years.
Additionally, sesame seed and oil contain a form of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol, which is an antioxidant that may be especially protective against heart disease.
Sesame Seed Oil – other Important Health Benefits
Since sesame seeds are a valuable source of fibre, taking sesame seed oil on regular basis may support digestive health. Growing evidence suggests that fibre may positively affect the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity and diabetes-2.
Sesame Seed Oil and Proteins
Sesame seed oil is a rich source of protein, which is essential for good health as it is involved in building everything from muscle to hormones.
Sesame Seed Oil for Healthy Bones and Joints
Sesame seeds and sesame seed oil contain high amounts of several nutrients, including Calcium, that are vital to bone health. Soaking, roasting, or sprouting sesame seeds can improve absorption of this mineral.
Sesame Seed Oil may soothe arthritic knee pain! Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of joint pain and often affects the knees. Several factors can play a role in arthritis, including inflammation and oxidative damage to the cartilage that protects the joints. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of sesame seeds can protect cartilage. Studies show a significant reduction of knee pain in people with arthritis who use sesame seeds. This led to improved results in a simple mobility test and to a greater reduction in certain inflammatory markers. The results in subjects who received drug treatment alone were significantly less.
Sesame Seed Oil for Hormone Balance
Sesame seed oil has a hormone-balancing effect. Research shows that sesame seeds positively influences the female sex hormones during menopause, due to an improved fatty acid metabolism. The fats in sesame seeds have another positive effect on hormones (especially those that aid in weight loss): the healthy, unsaturated fatty acids suppress the hunger hormone ghrelin, which regulates the “feeling of hunger”. Suppressing this hormone prevents binge-eating.
Sesame seeds contain phytoestrogens, plant compounds that resemble the hormone estrogen. Hence, sesame seeds can be beneficial for women when estrogen levels drop during menopause. For example, phytoestrogens can help combat hot flashes and other symptoms caused by estrogen levels drop.
These compounds may also reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as breast cancer, during menopause.
Sesame Seed Oil in Daily Diet
Sesame seed oil can impart a nutty flavour to many dishes. Try sesame seed oil to brighten up dishes, such as stir-fries, steamed broccoli, hot or cold cereal, bread and bread products, smoothies, salads and salad dressing, hummus … the list of possible uses is endless.
However, since sesame allergies are quite common, you may have to be careful when cooking for groups.
That famous magic spell – Open Sesame – can open the Sesame Seed Mountain for you too, filled with precious health treasures.