Sesame seeds, Sesamum Indicum, are native to Africa. In today’s world they are found mostly in Asia. India is the largest producer of sesame which is a valuable cash crop. Historically sesame is thought to be the oldest seed grown for its oil. African slaves brought sesame seed to North America where it became popular in southern cooking. Tahini is made from crushed sesame seeds and is also known as sesame butter.
Sesame seeds come in black and white. The black seeds still have their hulls, the white seeds have had their hulls removed. The seeds are popular with bakers who use them for rolls, bread sticks, and crackers. They are a good source of fiber and unsaturated fat.
Sesame oil is popular in cooking. It has a distinct flavor. It comes in dark and light variations and is considered healthy. Sesame oil is considered heart healthy. Sesame oil is also used for hair. It promotes growth and a healthy scalp.
Sesame seeds are rich in minerals like copper, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, selenium and molybdenum. They contain vitamin B6, folate and thiamin as well as protein.
Some of the health benefits of sesame seeds that have been studied include hypertension, diabetes management, prevention of cancer, bone health, reducing inflammation, protection from radiation and boosting metabolic function. There are some side effects. Consuming too many can cause irritation of the stomach and the colon. Be sure to discuss the use of sesame with your health care practitioner before using sesame seed or sesame oil therapeutically.
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