Sesame Seeds

Sesame Seeds

Sesame SeedsWhile many people might not be very familiar with sesame seeds, they are commonly used in a variety of dishes. Sesame seeds are especially used in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Besides the fact that the seeds are used, the oil of sesame seeds is also very popular. This article will describe the history of the seeds, the different health benefits it provides and give some tips on how to best store the seeds.

Description

Sesame seeds are small and flat oval seeds. The seeds have a particular flavor and their taste is often described to be very nutty. The seeds distinguish themselves from many other seeds since they add an almost invisible crunch to a wide variety of dishes. Sesame seeds can be purchased in many different colors. They are often sold in supermarkets in the colors yellow, black, white and red. The seeds are known for their high content of sesame oil. Sesame oil is used for different  purposes. It can be added to different dishes or it can be used for cooking. In some occasions, sesame oil is also used in certain beauty products since it is said to have a positive influence on the skin. The oil is also known for being resistant to rancidity. This means that the oil hardly ever becomes spoiled. Sesame seeds can be purchased either shelled or unshelled. The seeds are often added to salads, sushi, crackers or soups. They are also a common ingredient in bread and many other bread products. While sesame seeds are particularly used in the Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, almost any cuisine in the world uses sesame seeds in their dishes. The widespread use of the seeds is not only due to the fact that they are widely available, but is also due to the many health benefits they provide. Before addressing the health benefits of sesame seeds, the next paragraph will provide a brief history of the product.

History

While many believe that there is only one type of sesame seeds, there are actually thousands of different sesame seeds plants. Thousands of these plants are, however, not harvested and grow in the wild. Most of the wild sesame plants belong to the biological family called Sesamum. Moreover, the majority of these plants are native to Sub-Saharan Africa. There are some plants, however, which find their origin in India. As mentioned before, sesame seeds are widely known for their sesame oil. This type of oil is considered to be one of the oldest types of oil known to mankind. Sesame oil has been mentioned in ancient scriptures which are over 4,000 years old. There are some records which state that sesame seeds were traded around 2,000 BC. Others records show evidence of the fact that sesame seeds were cultivated in Egypt during the period which is also known at the Ptolemiac period. These records also show that sesame seeds were added to a list of medicinal drugs and that they were used as drugs to treat various diseases. Sesame fruit looks like a capsule and has a rectangular shape. The fruit splits open naturally and as soon as the fruit has matured it releases its seeds. Another benefit to sesame plants is that they can resist droughts. This is also the reason why they have been able to grow in deserts for decades. It is estimated that a total of 4,8 million metric tons of sesame seeds are produced every year. The biggest sesame producer in the world is Myanmar. India is considered to be the largest exporter of sesame seeds. India is followed by China and Japan.

Vitamins and minerals

Sesame seeds are a rich source of various minerals and vitamins which have a positive effect on the human body. They do not only include fiber, but are also considered to be a source of protein. Different health institutions have recommended to regularly consume sesame seeds. Two tablespoons of sesame seeds contain a great amount of magnesium, iron, copper, potassium and phosphorus. A similar size of sesame seeds also contains about two grams of fiber and about four grams of protein. This is an incredible large amount of nutrients considering the fact that the serving of seeds is relatively small. It is rare to find seeds or nuts which will provide the same nutritional value. Since sesame seeds contain a high amount of iron they can help to prevent iron deficiency. A low iron level can cause people to feel low on energy. If the problem of iron deficiency is not tackled soon enough, on the long run it could lead to anemia. Moreover, while copper deficiency is not a problem which is as common as iron deficiency it still occurs. Sesame seeds can also help to overcome copper deficiency. Copper is needed in order to maintain nerves as well as the condition of bones. The seeds also contain high levels of calcium. However, different studies have questioned the health benefits calcium in sesame seeds provide. This is due to the fact that calcium is bound to a component referred to as oxalic acid. Since it is bound to this component is does not provide the same health benefits as calcium found in dairy products. In order to assimilate as much calcium in the body as possible, in countries such as Japan people eat sesame seeds whole and un-hulled because it is said that these seeds contain high levels of calcium.


Balance of hormones

There are various studies which have analyzed the effects of sesame seeds on various hormones in the body. One of these studies focuses on the effects of sesame seeds on sex hormone production. It was concluded that this effect was particularly visible amongst women going through their post-menopause phase. The study, which was published in The Journal of Nutrition, concluded that the ingestion of sesame seeds had a positive effect on the antioxidant status amongst adult women. This in turn affected female sex hormones positively. The specific component which has a positive effect on female sex hormones is called sesamin. The effects of sesamin was described to be enter metabolite activity. This can be compared to the activity of lignans of flax seeds, these are phytoestrogens. Moreover, other studies have also concluded that sesame seeds are a great food product for pregnant women. They are even considered to be a super food, and contribute to a healthy pregnancy. This is due to the fact the product is a source of healthy fats, proteins and nutrients.

How to select and store

Sesame seeds are usually sold in supermarkets. However, not all supermarkets sell sesame seeds as part of their collection. If they are not sold in your local supermarket, try passing an Asian or Middle Eastern store since they usually sell them there. They are mostly sold pre-packaged, but in some stores you can pick how much you want to buy since they are sold by grams. Some stores also sell the product in bulk. Depending on how often you will be using the sesame seeds, you can choose whether you want to buy the product in small packages or in bulk. If you only plan to use it for one or two dishes or recipes, it is recommended to only buy a small package of sesame seeds. When you do plan on using the seeds more frequently, you can choose to buy a bulk pack of sesame seeds. When buying the product in bulk, do pay attention that the plastic bin is covered. Also make sure that the package is vacuum packed. If air has entered the package, the seeds might not taste as good. Moreover, pay attention to the fact that the store has a good product turnover. When the store does not sell sesame seeds often, you will not be sure how long the seeds have been in store for. Thus, try and ensure to maximize freshness of the seeds by checking the date on the package. Furthermore, make sure that the package does not show any sign of moisture. By smelling the package you will be able to tell whether the seeds are relatively fresh or whether they have gone bad. Sesame seeds which are un-hulled can be stored in a dry and dark place. It is recommended to store them in an airtight container in order for them to last as long as possible. If the seeds are hulled it is more likely for them to be become rancid. Thus, if you purchase seeds which are hulled, it is recommended for them to be stored in the freezer or refrigerator.

Culinary use of sesame seeds

As mentioned earlier in this article, sesame seeds have a nutty flavor. The taste of the seeds are more enhanced when they are lightly toasted for a couple of minutes. Sesame seeds are also often grounded and mixed with olive oil or with other oils. This then turns out to become a semi-solid paste which is added to a wide variety of recipes. One of the most common uses of sesame seeds is the making of tahini. Tahini is a thin light brown paste which is a mix of vegetable oil and toasted sesame. Tahini is one of the main ingredients for hummus. Hummus is probably the most famous Middle Eastern recipe. In Asian cuisines, sesame seeds are usually sprinkled over salads and stir fries. When used in Western kitchens, they are usually used to sprinkle breads, cakes or biscuits. Another common use of sesame seeds is the production of margarine. This is especially very popular in Europe. Furthermore, sesame seeds are used to make sesame oil. Sesame oil is probably the most common type of cooking oil used in Malaysia, southern India and Indonesia. Another famous use of sesame seeds is in the Japanese dish called Gomashio. Gomashio is often sprinkled over plain rice to give it some extra flavor.





                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 961x
Added: 30-10-2016 23:18
Last modified: 20-11-2016 15:01

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