The Mighty Sesame Seed: Origin and Nutrient Profile
Sesame seeds (Sesamum indicium) are small but impressive seeds derived from the sesame plant, native to Africa and India. However, they are now widely cultivated in many countries, including China, Japan, and the United States. Sesame seeds come in various colours, ranging from ivory to black sesame, but the most commonly found variety is white sesame.
Now, let's take a closer look at what makes these tiny seeds so special. Here's a breakdown of their impressive nutrient profile:
- Calcium: Surprisingly, sesame seeds contain more calcium per gram than dairy products, making them an excellent source of this bone-strengthening mineral.
- Iron: One tablespoon of sesame seeds contains approximately 1.3 milligrams of iron, essential for transporting oxygen throughout the body and preventing anaemia.
- Zinc: Sesame seeds provide a good source of zinc, which is essential for immune function and wound healing.
- B vitamins: Sesame seeds are also a rich source of B vitamins, including folate, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. These nutrients support energy, DNA function and brain health.
- Healthy fats: Sesame seeds are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated omega-3 fats, which promote heart health and can also help with weight management.
In a 100g serving (around 11 tablespoons) of dried sesame seeds, you get:
- 23% carbohydrates
- 12% fibre
- 50% fat
- 18% protein
Keep in mind that 11 tablespoons would be much more than a typical daily serving of sesame seeds. So, it's essential to use these nutritional values as a guide when you’re creating healthy meals at home.
Health Benefits of Sesame Seeds
Now that we know what makes sesame seeds so nutrient-dense let's explore their numerous health benefits:
- Heart Health: The healthy fats in sesame seeds help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Hormone Health: Sesame seeds are in Seed Cycling, which is a food-as-medicine practice that purports to help with women's hormones and reproductive health.
- Digestive Health: The fibre in sesame seeds aids digestion and helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome.
- Blood Pressure Control: Sesame seeds are rich in magnesium, which has been shown to help lower blood pressure.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Compounds like sesamin and sesamol in sesame seeds give them potent anti-inflammatory properties, making them beneficial for conditions like arthritis, autoimmunity and cancer.
- Neuroprotective: Recent research shows that the polyphenols found in sesame seeds may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases.
Polyphenols in Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are rich in health-promoting lignans. Lignans are a type of polyphenol found in a variety of plant foods. They are known for their antioxidant properties, which help protect the body from damage by free radicals. The two main lignans present in sesame seeds are sesamin and sesamolin. Notably, sesame seeds have one of the highest lignan contents of any food.
Here are some of the primary polyphenols found in sesame seeds and their health benefits:
- Sesamin: This is the most abundant polyphenol in sesame seeds. It has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
- Sesamolin: Like sesamin, sesamolin also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. It can help protect the liver and has been linked to lowered cholesterol levels.
- Sesamol: This polyphenol has been studied for its ability to protect against DNA damage and inflammation.
What is Tahini?
Tahini, a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine, is a smooth, creamy paste made from toasted sesame seeds. This versatile ingredient appears in an array of recipes, from savoury sauces to sweet desserts. It's quite simple in composition, with its typical recipe consisting only of hulled sesame seeds and oil. The process involves grinding the toasted seeds into a smooth paste, similar to the process of making peanut butter. The resulting product is tahini, a rich, silky paste with a slightly bitter, umami flavour. Its creamy consistency and unique taste make it an ideal component in various dishes like hummus, babaghanoush, and halva.
Sesame Seeds are Versatile and Nutritious
Sesame seeds are wonderfully adaptable when it comes to the culinary world. Their distinctive taste and delicate crunch enhance a wide variety of dishes. In savoury dishes, they add a unique depth to salads, stir-fries, and marinades. They are often used as a garnish on bread and pastries, introducing a surprising element of crunch and flavour. Sesame seeds are a key ingredient in many desserts, such as halva, ice cream or protein balls, lending them a rich, complex taste.
Why not try toasted sesame seeds as a great way to amp up the natural flavours they possess? One of the most significant advantages of sesame seeds is their ability to work in multiple forms—whole, crushed, or as a paste or oil. Sesame seeds genuinely prove their worth and versatility in any kitchen. So get creative with these recipes with sesame seeds and see how this small but mighty ingredient can transform your cooking.
7 Healthy Recipes with Sesame Seeds
It's time to put all this knowledge into action and bring some deliciousness into your kitchen. These seven recipes are a perfect collection of both sweet and savoury ideas that celebrate sesame seeds in all their glory.
Black Sesame Ice Cream
This irresistible dessert pairs the nutty, rich taste of black sesame seeds with the creamy coolness of ice cream. It's an unexpected delight that's sure to impress your family or friends at a dinner party.
- 1/2 cup black sesame seeds
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Toast the black sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes or until they start to pop and smell fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Let them cool, then grind them in a food processor until you get a coarse paste. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, combine the sugar, heavy cream, and milk. Heat over medium heat until it starts to simmer.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly pour a cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks while whisking constantly, to temper the eggs.
- Pour the tempered egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the cream mixture, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
- Remove the custard mixture from the heat and stir in the black sesame paste and vanilla extract.
- Let the mixture cool completely, then churn it in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once churned, transfer the ice cream to a lidded container and freeze it for at least 4 hours, or until firm.
Dark Chocolate Tahini Cookies
Indulge your sweet tooth and while enjoying a healthy snack with these scrumptious dark chocolate tahini cookies. They're loaded with rich, unctuous flavour from the tahini, and the dark chocolate chips add just the right amount of sweetness.
- 1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- Preheat your oven to 180°C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
- In a large bowl, cream together the tahini, butter, and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until well combined.
- In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the tahini mixture, beating just until combined.
- Stir in the dark chocolate chips until they're evenly distributed throughout the dough.
- Using a cookie scoop or your hands, form the dough into balls and place them on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each cookie slightly with the back of a spoon, then sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.
Roasted Chickpea and Sweet Potato Salad with Zesty Tahini Dressing
This hearty salad combines the crunch of roasted chickpeas, the sweetness of roasted sweet potatoes, and a zesty tahini dressing flecked with sesame seeds. It's not only filling and flavoursome but also vegan and gluten-free.
- 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 5 cups mixed salad greens
- 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon warm water (or more as needed)
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- Preheat your oven to 200°C. Toss the chickpeas and sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Spread them out on a baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chickpeas are crispy.
- While the chickpeas and sweet potatoes are roasting, prepare the tahini dressing. Whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, minced garlic, the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and warm water in a small bowl. If the dressing is too thick, add more water, a teaspoon at a time, until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Place the mixed salad greens in a large bowl. Once the chickpeas and sweet potatoes are done, let them cool for a few minutes, then add them to the bowl with the greens.
- Drizzle the salad with the tahini dressing, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Toss everything together until the salad is well coated in the dressing.
Sesame Furikake Salmon and Noodles
A deliciously healthy and quick dish that will impress, this recipe features pan-seared salmon with a sesame furikake crust, served over a bed of soba noodles.
- 4 salmon fillets
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons furikake seasoning (make your own using this recipe)
- 2 bundles of soba noodles
- 2 cups of mixed vegetables (such as capsicum, snap peas, broccoli)
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- Green onions, finely sliced (for garnish)
- Season the salmon fillets with salt, pepper, and furikake seasoning. Heat one tablespoon of sesame oil in a pan over medium heat, then add the salmon, skin-side down. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until the salmon is cooked to your liking and the furikake has formed a crust.
- While the salmon is cooking, prepare the soba noodles according to the package instructions. Drain the noodles and set them aside.
- In the same pan, add the remaining sesame oil and stir-fry the mixed vegetables until they are tender-crisp. Add the cooked soba noodles, soy sauce, and mirin to the pan, and toss everything together until the noodles and vegetables are well-coated in the sauce.
- Serve the furikake-crusted salmon on top of the noodles and vegetables. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and garnish with sliced green onions before serving.
Sesame Goodie Balls
For new mothers, these Sesame Goodie Balls are a yummy and nutritious snack to help meet your baby’s feeding demands. They are packed with ingredients like oats, sesame seeds, and flaxseeds, traditionally used to support breastfeeding and lactation.
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted
- 1/4 cup flaxseeds
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine the oats, sesame seeds, and flaxseeds.
- Add in the almond butter, honey and vanilla extract. Mix well until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. If the mixture seems too dry, you can add a bit more almond butter or honey.
- If using, stir in the dark chocolate chips.
- Using your hands, roll the mixture into small balls around 1 inch in diameter.
- Place the balls on a tray lined with baking paper and refrigerate for at least an hour or until firm.
- Store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for longer storage.