Sesame seeds are so nutritious that you might not want to wait until your next visit to the bakery to eat the few that top your bagel. Sesame seeds are an excellent source of many essential minerals as well as a very good source of vitamin B1 (thiamin) and dietary fiber. The nutrients found in sesame seeds may contribute to cardiovascular health, reduce inflammation, support respiratory health, protect against colon cancer and osteoporosis as well as other conditions. Depending upon the variety, sesame seeds come in many different colors, including white, yellow, black and red.
Many Major Minerals
Black sesame seeds are an excellent source of magnesium and calcium. A 1/4 cup serving of provides 126 mg of magnesium, or 32 percent of the Recommended Daily Value (DV), and 351 mg of calcium (35 percent of the DV). That's slightly more than you find in a cup of milk, however, the calcium is located in the hull of the seeds, so hulled versions offer much less calcium.
Magnesium and calcium are important essential minerals that help regulate blood pressure, reduce the likelihood of developing tension and migraine headaches (triggered by blood vessel spasms), reduce the occurrence of airway spasms in asthmatics and regulate sleep patterns, especially in women suffering from menopause-induced sleep disturbances.
Essential Trace Minerals
A 1/4 cup serving of black sesame seeds provides almost 1.5 milligrams (mg), or 74 percent of the DV, for the trace mineral copper, and 2.8 mg (about 19 percent of the DV) for zinc. These minerals are needed in very small quantities, but are essential for human health. Copper plays a role in the anti-inflammatory process which is beneficial for reducing some of the swelling and pain characteristic of inflammatory diseases. Copper also is needed to activate an enzyme necessary for building collagen and elastin, which provide structure and elasticity to bones and joints.
Low dietary intakes of the trace mineral zinc (low circulating levels in the bloodstream) is associated with a depressed immune system as well as loss of bone and decreased bone density of the hip and spine. Consuming zinc-rich foods, such as black sesame seeds, reduces the risk of suffering from bone fractures caused by reduced bone density (common among the elderly) or osteoporosis. Optimal zinc intake may reduce the frequency and length of the common cold because it keeps the immune system healthy.
Tiny Cholesterol Fighters
Black sesame seeds help lower serum cholesterol levels (which contributes to cardiovascular health) in several ways. They contain two unique substances known as sesamin and sesamolin. These substances belong to a group of fibers called lignans (flaxseeds are another rich source of lignans). Lignans are rich in dietary fiber and have a cholesterol-lowering effect.
Black sesame seeds are rich in phytosterols. Phytosterols are plant compounds very similar in structure (chemical) to cholesterol. Consuming more dietary phytosterols not only decreases blood cholesterol levels but reduces the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Sesame seeds offer the highest phytosterol content (400 to 413 mg per 100 grams or 3.5 ounces) of all nuts and seeds.
- The Whole Foods Encyclopedia; Rebecca Wood; 1988
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Zinc intakes and plasma concentrations in men with osteoporosis: the Rancho Bernardo Study; T Hyun, E Barrett-Connor and D Milne; Sep 2004
- Atherosclerosis; Hypocholesterolemic effect of sesame lignan in humans; F Hirata, K Fujita, Y Ishikura, et al.; Apr 1996
- United States Department of Agriculture: Sesame Seeds, raw