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Sesame seeds add texture to baked goods, a nutty flavor to sushi rolls, stir-fries and salads, and ground sesame seeds are used to make delicious and nutritious spreads like tahini, hummus and sesame butter. Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like them. They are a powerhouse of organic minerals, especially calcium, and an alkaline food that support bone and general health.
The Hard Facts about Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are full of calcium, magnesium, copper, vitamin B1, zinc and dietary fiber. They offer the most nutritional value when the entire seed is used (un-hulled).
Whole sesame seeds contain about 88 mg of calcium per tablespoon. Just a quarter cup of natural sesame seeds provides more calcium than a whole cup of milk. A quarter cup of raw natural sesame seeds has 351 mg of calcium while one cup of non-fat milk has 316.3 mg, and one cup of whole milk has only 291 mg of calcium. Plus, they are alkaline whereas milk is acidic.
Sesame seeds are also rich in zinc, another mineral that has a positive effect on bone mineral density. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a correlation between low dietary intake of zinc and osteoporosis at the hip and spine.
Copper, better known for its anti-inflammatory ability, shown to reduce some of the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis, is also a supporter of bone and blood vessel health.
Small Seeds, Multiple Health Benefits
While calcium is vital to bone health, it also can help with migraines and provide relief for PMS. These multi-tasking seeds are rich in sesamin and sesamolin, fibers called lignans that can lower cholesterol and help prevent high blood pressure. They are also a great source of phytosterols, plant sterols that have also been shown to lower blood cholesterol and improve heart health.
Processing and Cooking
Keep in mind that how a food is processed and cooked changes its nutritional value. For example, the calcium level decreases about 60 percent when the hulls are removed from the sesame seed; however, the form of calcium in the hulls is calcium oxalate, a less absorbable form of calcium.
The actual harm of removing the hull is debatable. When the seed is crushed, as in tahini or sesame butter, its nutrients are more easily digested. When left whole, the seeds do not break down as well during digestion.
Toasting or roasting sesame seeds alter their nutritional value. Studies show that the calcium levels are slightly higher when the seeds are toasted. For example, one could get 27 percent of their daily value of calcium in one ounce of whole sesame seeds, but 28 percent if the seeds are roasted. Likewise, one ounce of hulled raw kernels will get give you 2 percent of your daily value of calcium. That number doubles when the kernels are toasted.
Okay, you get it, they’re healthy! But there’s more, because sesame seeds are also delicious. If you think that a bakery roll is the only way to serve sesame, you are missing out. Toasted or raw seeds (whole or hulled) can be added to steamed broccoli (a veggie rich in calcium), stir-fried green beans, put on top of salads and in dressings, sprinkled on baked goods, and mashed and ground into condiments and spreads. Try using sesame seeds in place of acidifying breadcrumbs.
Countries in the Middle East have been using and reaping the benefits of this small powerhouse for centuries, finding many uses for sesame, both culinary and medicinal. One of their favourite snacks to this day is tahini. It’s a wonderful paste made of sesame seeds that you can use in spreads, dressings, sauces, or all by itself on crackers and toast. You can even use it as a dip with fruits and veggies. Always remember, tahini should be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container. It will keep for up to 3 months.
Foods and Recipes?
We are planning to start a healthy recipe corner post soon. We would love to hear from those interested: please mail us with your recipes including ingredients, preparation time & methods, benefits, serving suggestions and storing methods.
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