Black Sesame Seeds: A Cholesterol-Fighting Spice From The Far East

Sesame seeds are believed to be one of mankind’s oldest spices and are mentioned in the Assyrian creation myth. There is evidence that sesame seeds were being used by the ancient Chinese people around 5000 BCE. The Chinese used sesame oil as a fuel for lamps and burned it to use the soot for their ink blocks. Other evidence shows the sesame plant being grown in India around 1600 BCE. Historians believe that India is actually where sesame seed plants originated. Specifically, they are thought to come from the Indian Archipelago, also known as the Spice Isles. The Romans also used sesame seeds. In ancient Rome, sesame seeds were ground with cumin to make a spread for use on bread.

By 1500 BCE, sesame seeds were being cultivated in various parts of Africa, including Egypt and Sudan.

In America, sesame seeds arrived by way of African slaves. The slaves referred to sesame seeds as benne seeds and are the reason why sesame seeds show up in many southern dishes.

Like golden sesame seeds, black sesame seeds are unhulled. The fact that they lack a hull gives them a darker appearance than white sesame seeds. White sesame seeds have had their hulls removed thus exposing the inner white part of the seed. Aside from hull or lack thereof, there is no difference between black and white sesame seeds.

The word sesame is thought to have evolved into its English version from the Arabic word simsim and the Egyptian semsent.

Today, black sesame seeds are used mostly in Asia. White sesame seeds are more popular in the West and in the Middle East.

Black sesame seeds flavor profile

The fact that black sesame seeds have their hulls intact gives them a slightly bitter note that is not present in white sesame seeds, In addition, there is a textural difference in that black sesame seeds are crunchier than their hulled counterparts.

Health benefits of black sesame seeds

Black sesame seeds are full of compounds that can benefit your health. Among their nutrients are:

  • Minerals: Black sesame seeds can provide significant amounts of important minerals like magnesium and calcium. They also contain trace minerals like copper and zinc.
  • Protein: Like other nuts and edible seeds, black sesame seeds are loaded with protein. Even a small serving size can provide a good portion of your daily recommended protein intake.
  • Dietary fiber: Black sesame seeds are a great source of dietary fiber and lignans.
  • Vitamins: You can get considerable amounts of both vitamin E and vitamin B-6 from black sesame seeds.

Black sesame seeds can be beneficial for treating or preventing the following health conditions:

  • High cholesterol: Black sesame seeds contain two lignans called sesamin and sesamolin that help to lower cholesterol. They also contain phytosterols, which also help to reduce cholesterol in the blood.
  • Cancer: In addition to lowering your cholesterol, the phytosterols in black sesame seeds can reduce your risk of certain cancers like colon cancer.

Common uses of black sesame seeds

These seeds are a popular condiment in Japanese cooking and are among the main ingredients in the Japanese seven spice blend also known as shichimi togarashi. They also show up in various Asian pastries and noodle dishes. Black sesame seeds are used in some varieties of the Cantonese dessert known as tong sui, which is a sweet soup or custard.