Black Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are truly one of the most ancient foods on earth. In fact, sesame plants are the oldest known plant species to be grown primarily for their seeds (pods) and oils rather than for their leaves, fruit or vegetables.
Highly valued in eastern, Mediterranean and African cultures, sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum) have been used for thousands of years to flavor foods, provide essential fats and enhance skin health. Sesame has one of the highest oil contents of any seed and a rich, nutty flavor, which is why sesame oil, tahini and the seeds themselves are common ingredients in cuisines across the world.
Benefits of Sesame Seeds
1. High Source of Cholesterol-Lowering Phytosterols
Thanks to recent studies investigating phytonutrients found in sesame seeds, specifically fatty acids and antioxidants, we now know that sesame seeds and sesame oil have phytoestrogen activity and powerful cholesterol-lowering effects.
Sesame seeds rank highest in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols of nearly all nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. Phytosterols are plant sterols structurally similar to cholesterol that act in the intestine to lower cholesterol absorption. Phytosterols displace cholesterol within the intestinal tract, reducing the pool of available absorbable cholesterol. Some research has shown that among 27 different nuts and seeds tested, sesame seeds come out on top (along with wheat germ) as having the highest phytosterol content.
They contain approximately 400 grams of phytosterols per every 200 grams of seeds. The specific type of phytosterol they supply is called beta-sitosterol, which is tied to improved prostate health as well as better arterial function.
2. Protect Heart Health
Research shows that lignans help improve lipid profiles and can normalize cholesterol and blood pressure. Lignans help naturally lower cholesterol in a few ways — they can lower both serum blood and liver cholesterol levels. Researchers sometimes refer to sesame seed phytochemicals as “hypocholesterolemic agents” for this reason.
Fifty grams of sesame seed powder taken daily over five weeks by healthy adults has shown positive effects on total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, LDL-to-HDL cholesterol ratios and antioxidant status.
3. Improve Blood Pressure
Sesame oil is considered a strong antihypertensive since it can help normalize blood pressure levels. One 2006 study published in The Yale Journal of Biological Medicine investigated the effects of hypertensive adults supplementing with sesame oil daily for 45 days and found that sesame can be a great way to naturally lower blood pressure.
After tracking various health markers of 32 hypertensive patients aged 35 to 60 years who were supplied sesame oil (Idhayam gingelly oil) to use it as the only edible oil for 45 days, the researchers found that sesame oil helped significantly lower blood pressure, decrease lipid peroxidation and increase antioxidant status in the majority of patients.
4. Balance Hormones
Research suggests there’s potential for sesame to also positively affect sex hormone production due to better fatty-acid metabolism, especially in post-menopausal women.
In a 2009 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, sesame ingestion had positive effects on blood lipids and antioxidant status in adult women that positively impacted sex hormones. Sesamin, a sesame lignan, was shown to be converted by intestinal microflora to enterolactone, a phytoestrogen compound with estrogen-like activity. Additionally, sesamin showed enterometabolite activity, similar to those found in flaxseed lignans, which are also phytoestrogens.
After investigating the effects of 50 grams of sesame seed powder taken daily on blood sex hormones, lipids and levels of oxidation in 26 postmenopausal women over the course of a five-week period, the group receiving sesame experienced improvements in serum sex hormone binding and production, as well as reductions in total cholesterol levels and improved antioxidant status.
Because they’re loaded with important nutrients, protein and fats, sesame seeds are also a superfood for a healthy pregnancy.
5. Fight Cancer
Whole sesame seeds are a rich source of mammalian lignan precursors, similar to whole flaxseeds. The mammalian lignans called enterolactone and enterodiol are produced by the microflora in the colon, and recent research suggests they have potential anticancer effects, especially in regard to preventing colon and breast cancers.
A 2005 study conducted by the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto investigated the effects of giving 25 grams of unground whole flaxseeds and sesame seeds to healthy postmenopausal women over a four-week period. Urine test results showed an increase in mammalian lignans from the women receiving both whole flaxseeds and sesame seeds, suggesting that both are effectively converted by the bacterial flora in the colon and can help protect from oxidation and colon cancer development.
Another 2012 study published in The Journal of Nutrition also found that dietary lignans may act like a natural cancer treatment and reduce breast cancer risk by modifying tumor characteristics. Lignan intakes were inversely associated with risk of estrogen receptor (ER) negative breast cancer. After tracking total and specific lignan intake of 683 women with breast cancer and 611 healthy women without breast cancer, it was found that the women with the highest intake of lignans compared to the lowest intake had a 40 percent to 50 percent lower chance of developing breast cancer.
6. Help Burn Fat
Fats signal our brain to produce hormones that make us feel satisfied so we stay full for longer between meals. Essentially, various healthy fats turn on your fat-burning switch by reducing ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
Certain phytochemicals found in sesame seeds that are part of the lignan family are also known to be beneficial to your metabolism and body’s fat-burning abilities. Studies done involving animals show that sesame seeds might act like an ultimate fat-burning food because lignans enhance important liver mechanisms. They can increase burning fat by improving the activity of several liver enzymes that actually work to break down fatty acids.
This is one reason why several fat-burning or bodybuilding supplements are available on the market today that contain active ingredients from sesame seeds. However, of course it’s always better to obtain benefits from the real whole food and skip the processed and potentially dangerous pills!
Adding plenty of healthy fats into your diet — including plant-based fats like chia, flax and sunflower seeds — is also key for killing sugar addiction,reducing cravings and ending overeating.
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