This miracle ingredient helps with everything from bone health to healthy blood pressure levels
We celebrated Lohri/Makarsankranti/Pongal last week with zeal. Have you ever wondered why all the festivities celebrated around this time across India use almost the same ingredients for celebrations? Our seasons and weather are always related to the position of sun, and so they change according to sun’s position. If the sun is closer to us, the proximity and the heat affects our body in a certain way as compared to the time when the sun is far away from us. From Makarsankranti, the sun starts travelling towards the north and the increasing amount of atmospheric heat tends to zap our life energy or prana which makes the body cooler. And that’s why, to provide energy to the body, the superfoods that come to our rescue are sesame and jaggery. From Sankranti to Ratha Saptami, we have the tradition of eating ladoo made of sesame and jaggery. It’s not only tradition, but both have a number of health benefits as well. For now, let’s learn more about the superfood: sesame.
There are two types of sesame; polished and unpolished. We do not use much of black sesame in our diet, but there is more calcium, other nutrients and more antioxidants in it. White and black, both the sesame seeds are good for health. Here’s a glimpse into their benefits:
■ Sesame is great source of calcium and zinc which is good for bone health and also helps in preventing bone loss.
■ The iron and copper content of sesame helps in the proper absorption of free iron in the body. This is helpful in treating arthritis or osteoarthritis as well.
■ The fibre content in sesame is higher. Due to fibrous substance our appetite is reduced, because it keeps the stomach full. You can add sesame seeds to your weight loss regime.
■ It is also good to use sesame oil for cooking purposes. It has mono and polyunsaturated fats. Sesamol and Sesumin in this oil are some of the special antioxidants that help in reducing oxidative stress. The oleic acid in it helps to reduce blood’s bad cholesterol. Sesame seeds stand tallest when it comes to cholesterol-lowering phytosterols when compared to nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. So they are helpful in improving lipid profile.
■ Sesame oil is considered a strong antihypertensive since it can help normalise blood pressure levels. Sesame oil helps significantly lower blood pressure, decrease lipid peroxidation and increase antioxidant status in a majority of patients during a research study.
■ Research suggests there’s potential in sesame to positively affect sex hormone production due to better fatty-acid metabolism. Sesamin which is a sesame lignan, has shown to be converted by gut microflora to enterolactone; a phytoestrogen compound with estrogen-like activity. If taken properly, they help in improving hormonal imbalance. Research suggests it also helps in improvements in the serum sex hormone-binding and production, as well as reductions in total cholesterol levels and improved antioxidant status.
These are few health benefits of sesame, which makes it a superfood. Although oil and calories are pretty high in sesame seeds, if we eat it moderation and mindfully throughout the year, it will be beneficial. Include sesame seeds in the form of sesame chutney, use as a topping on your fruit or salad plate, or a tablespoon, in the morning is really good for the body to keep our bones strong. Normally, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds can be taken daily. Go ahead and enjoy your share of health!
The writer is the Chief Nutrition Officer, Luke Coutinho Holistic Healing Systems. She is a clinical nutritionist with a focus on healthy lifestyle choices.