Sesame seeds are one of mankind’s most ancient foods. They are among the first plants in human history to have been cultivated for their seeds and the oils in them rather than for their leaves, fruits or roots.
The name sesame goes all the way back to Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egyptian term for sesame was sesemt. Other mentions of sesame come from the Assyrians. An Assyrian myth states that their gods drank sesame wine before creating the Earth.
Sesame is thought to have originated in India, but its use has spread to both China and Africa. The Chinese also used sesame oil as a fuel for their lamps 5,000 years ago.
There is some evidence that sesame seeds were brought to America by slaves. By the 18th century, sesame would be one of the leading crops in the southern US. Today, you will find sesame seeds in some southern dishes, particularly those from South Carolina.
Sesame seeds are grown extensively in Asia with China and India being among the major producers from that continent. Nigeria and Sudan in Africa are also among the world’s leading producers.
Flavor profile of sesame seeds
White sesame seeds have a caramel aroma with nutty and sweet notes. Black sesame seeds have a richer aroma that can be likened to that of dark chocolate.
Health benefits of sesame seeds
Sesame seeds are more than just decoration for burger buns. They are a highly nutritious spice that can deliver a range of health benefits. The nutrients in sesame seeds include:
- Vitamin B-6: Vitamin B6 is also known as pyroxidine. This vitamin is used in a wide variety of the body’s processes including more than 100 enzyme reactions like amino acid metabolism and is important for cognitive development. A 100-g serving of sesame seeds provides you with 40 percent of the vitamin B6 you need each day.
- Minerals: Sesame seeds are loaded with several important minerals including calcium, magnesium, and iron. Calcium is important for the growth and maintenance of your bones and teeth. You also need it to be able to absorb certain vitamins like vitamins D and K. By consuming 100-g of sesame seeds you get 97 percent of your daily calcium requirement. Magnesium is important for bone development as well and you need it to get energy from your food. You can have 87 percent of your magnesium requirement met by eating 100 g of sesame seeds. Iron is one of hemoglobin’s main components and is necessary for the transport of oxygen to tissues. A 100-g serving of sesame seeds can provide 81 percent of the iron you need daily.
- Dietary fiber: Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that you get from plant foods and that is important for the function of your bowels. You can get 48 percent of your daily fiber requirement from 100 grams of sesame seeds.
Sesame seeds can help with the prevention and treatment of diseases and health conditions such as:
- High cholesterol: The fatty acids in sesame seeds lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. This means that a diet that contains a lot of sesame seeds may help to prevent heart disease and stroke.
- Constipation: The fiber in sesame seeds helps food to pass through your digestive system faster and easier. There is considerable evidence that fiber-rich diets can help to lower your risk of colorectal cancer.
Common uses of sesame seeds
Sesame seeds are pounded and added to moles in Mexico, ground to make tahini sauce in the Middle East and used to as an ingredient in Japanese shichimi togarashi.