Sesame seeds, one of the most potent, nutrient-dense ancient foods on earth, have been utilized for more than 5,000 years.
Not only are sesame seeds important for their nutritional content, but they are also highly valued for their rancidity-resistant oil. Sesame seeds come from a tall annual herb native to the East Indies. They grow on a single hairy stalk which climbs to between two and seven feet tall. The rose-colored flowers that bloom on the stalk have little capsules that contain many tiny black and white seeds. When the seeds are ripe they burst open and scatter.
Lore and legend have it that in One Thousand and One Nights, in the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, a password was needed to open the door of the robbers’ den. The magical command “Open Sesame” may have been chosen because ripe sesame seeds bursting from their pods sound like the sharp pop of a lock springing open.
Sesame seeds contain 55 percent oil and 20 percent protein, making them a high source of essential fatty acids and the amino acids lysine, tryptophan and methionine. They also contain significant amounts of copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, zinc and thiamine.
Because they are full of zinc, an essential mineral for producing collagen, they are especially helpful in giving skin more elasticity. Zinc helps repair damaged tissues in the body and boosts bone mineral density.
Of all nuts, seeds, legumes and grains, sesame seeds rank highest in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols. They contain 400 mg of phytosterols per every 100 g of seeds, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Phytosterols displace cholesterol in the intestinal tract, reducing the absorbable cholesterol.
Sesame oil can soothe burns, help heal skin disorders and, when used in oil pulling, benefit oral health. This involves swishing the oil around in the mouth to help remove dental plaque and even whiten teeth. The oil has an anti-inflammatory compound known as sesamol, which can boost heart health by preventing valve and vein lesions and protect against DNA damage caused by radiation.
Thanks to the magnesium in sesame seeds they are useful in helping combat diabetes by lowering blood pressure and plasma glucose in hypertensive diabetics.
Sesame seeds contain an anti-cancer compound called phytate which is especially helpful in lowering the risk of colorectal tumors and also helps reduce pain and swelling associated with arthritis.
Sesame seeds are used to produce many products including gomasio, which is made by finely grinding roasted sesame seeds with sea salt. This nutty condiment is used widely in Japan and in macrobiotic diets to sprinkle over vegetables and rice.
Sesame seeds have a delicious nut-like flavor, which is heightened by toasting. Unhulled sesame seeds are dark while hulled seeds are white. The tan seeds are those that have been roasted. The darker sesame seeds have a stronger smell and taste.
Tahini is a light creamy spread made from hulled, ground sesame seeds and is best known as an ingredient used in hummus. Tahini is so easy to make and even better than the pre-packaged version in the grocery stores. The below tahini pairs well with the raw hummus recipe.
- 1 cup raw sesame seeds
- 2 cups alkaline water
- 1 cup sprouted garbanzo beans
- 2 tsp fresh garlic
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 Tbsp chickpea miso
- 3 Tbsp raw tahini
Blend all the hummus ingredients in a food processor until the mixture is smooth and creamy, and serve with fresh raw vegetables.
Brenda Cobb is author of The Living Foods Lifestyle and founder of The Living Foods Institute, an Educational Center and Therapy Spa in Atlanta offering healthy lifestyle courses on nutrition, cleansing, healing, anti-aging, detoxification, relaxation and cleansing therapies. For more information, call 404-524-4488 and visit LivingFoodsInstitue.com.