Sesame Seed Nutrition

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Oh to be the so-often-overlooked sesame seed. To be a nutritional powerhouse, yet be relegated to decorating the tops of processed white burger buns in fast food chains. Although usually nothing more than an afterthought or a garnish, sesame seeds should really be given a more central role in your diet. These little guys deserve more than being thought of as a pretty bread topper.

Pound for pound, sesame seeds have about ten times the calcium as milk. Sesame also contains B vitamins, (particularly vitamin B3), vitamin E, folic acid, and is a good source of vegetarian protein. In fact, sesame seeds provide methionine and tryptophan, two amino acids often lacking in vegetable foods, making them a good choice to combine with grains, vegetables or legumes. Sesame seeds also contain vitamin A, iron, magnesium, copper and phosphorous.

In many folk healing practices, including Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Indian Ayurvedic system, sesame oil is highly prized for its healing properties (although, in India, the black sesame seeds are considered to be more healing than the white). The oil has natural antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties and, because of its high vitamin E content as well as unique antioxidant chemicals, resists going rancid for extended periods of time.

Sesame oil has close to an even amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, adding to its stability and making it ideal for light-heat cooking. However, the polyunsaturated fats in sesame oil are mostly Omega-6, meaning you should try to up your consumption of Omega-3 fats if you’re going to be using it regularly. Nutrition expert Sally Fallon recommends combining a small amount of flax oil (high in Omega-3) in dishes where you’re using sesame oil so as not to upset the all important Omega-3:Omega-6 ratio (note, however, that you should never cook with flax oil as it is an easily damaged oil).

Along with wheat germ, sesame is the food highest in phytosterols which are phytonutrients good for lowering blood-cholesterol levels, enhancing immunity, reducing swollen prostate glands and fighting certain types of cancers. Sesame seeds are also a great source of lignans, substances with natural antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties and have been found to have anti-cancer effects on hormone related cancers like breast and prostate. Sesame seeds are also a great source of lecithin, a fatty substance vital for proper brain and nervous system function.

People in the Middle East or Africa have ground the Sesame seeds into a paste which also known as tahini in many places. As being a main ingredient in both baba ganoush and hummus, tahini is usually combined with garlic and lemon to make tahini sauce. Sesame seeds are often eaten in small amounts by people, however, if you want to get more these seeds into your diet, consuming tahini can be the best way too. Plain tahini makes for a pretty decent peanut butter alternative and tahini sauce is great on falafel or other sandwiches, salads or just as a dip for pita bread.

However you eat them, sesame seeds are worth adding to your diet. Your body will thank you for it!

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