Note to readers: Ancient Wisdom is a series of guides that shines a light on age-old wisdom that has helped people for generations with time-honoured wellness solutions to everyday fitness problems, persistent health issues and stress management, among others. Through this series, we try to provide contemporary solutions to your health worries with traditional insights.
Crunchy, flavourful and aromatic, sesame seeds or Til is truly a desi comfort food for Indians in biting cold. Be it til ke laddoo or chikki that indulge our sweet tooth or crispy fritters, burgers or toast that enhance the flavour and appeal of our snack, sesame seeds indeed are nutritional superheroes that elevate and enrich a dish with their distinct appeal. Sesame seeds have been revered since times immemorial. (Also read | Ancient Wisdom Part 32: Moringa can help you live longer, control diabetes; know all benefits and how to consume)
As per an Assyrian legend, it is said that Gods had wine made from sesame seeds when they created the world. Both the varieties of sesame – white and black seeds find mention in the ancient texts of Ayurveda where the latter are described to be of superior quality than the former. The fascinating journey of the ancient oilseeds also touches upon Middle East, Africa and Asia where they were highly valued. Sesame seeds were one of the first crops processed for oil as well as one of the earliest. condiments.
Benefits of sesame seeds
Apart from its culinary uses, sesame oil is full of health benefits. Sesame seeds are used as mild laxative. Its compounds have been found to protect liver from oxidative damage. In earlier times, people also believed sesame healed the wounds due to its naturally anti-bacterial properties. It is anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. In experiments by some Ayurvedic physicians in Holland, the oil was used in the treatment of several chronic diseases including hepatitis, diabetes and migraines. Sesame seed oil is known to maintain good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol. It also offers protection as dental issues like gingivitis and relieves chronic sinusitis. It also helps relieve psoriasis and dry skin ailments.
“Sesame seeds, though diminutive, pack a punch when it comes to nutritional benefits. These tiny seeds are rich in essential nutrients, offering a balance of healthy fats, protein, fibre, and an array of vitamins and minerals. Its noteworthy components include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc. Incorporating sesame seeds into your diet can contribute to overall well-being, supporting bone health, providing energy, and complementing a diverse nutrient intake,” says Dietitian Vidhi Chawla, creator of Fisico Diet and Aesthetic Clinic.
Sesame seeds or til has two unique compounds called sesamin and sesamolin which have cholesterol lowering properties and prevent high blood pressure
Cephalin, a phospholipid from sesame seeds has wide medical and pharmaceutical applications. It is mildly laxative, emollient and demulcent.
Sesame seeds are good for skin and enhances skin with moisture and warmth. They are rich in anti-inflammatory properties and can help prevent skin infections.
Sesame seeds help in removing dental plaque and boosts oral health.
Sesame oil contains a large amount of linoleate in triglyceride form that selectively inhibit malignant melanoma growth.
How sesame seeds were consumed in ancient times
An interesting legend has it that when merchants from ancient Egypt went to Africa savanna, they were fascinated with the unique aroma and taste of sesame seeds so much so that they were willing to trade a cow for a sesame seed so as to bring the oilseed to Egypt for cultivation. Once sesame seed reached Egypt, it was used to the fullest from skincare routines, medical treatment, cooking, cosmetics and even preserving mummies.
“The history of sesame seeds is intertwined with ancient civilizations, where they were esteemed for their versatility. Consumed in various forms, including being ground into tahini or pressed for oil, sesame seeds were more than a culinary choice—they held medicinal and cultural significance. From Asia to the Middle East, sesame seeds were an integral part of ancient diets, showcasing their timeless appeal,” says Chawla.
How to add sesame seeds to the diet in winter
As winter sets in, incorporating sesame seeds into your meals can offer not just nutritional benefits but also a touch of warmth. Their nutty flavour makes them a versatile addition to a myriad of dishes.
- Sprinkle them on salads for a delightful crunch
- Stir them into hot soups to enhance texture
- Add them to baked goods for an extra layer of nutrition
The versatility of sesame seeds makes them an easy and flavourful choice for the colder months.
Who shouldn’t have sesame seeds
“While sesame seeds are celebrated for their health benefits, caution is warranted for certain individuals. Those with sesame seed allergies should approach their consumption carefully and seek guidance from a healthcare professional. Additionally, individuals with specific medical conditions, such as kidney stones, should be mindful of the oxalate content in sesame seeds. Tailoring dietary choices to individual health needs ensures a safe and beneficial incorporation of sesame seeds,” says Chawla.
Interesting facts about sesame seeds
- Sesame seeds boast a cultivation history spanning over 3,000 years, showcasing their adaptability and resilience across diverse climates and cultures.
- Beyond their nutritional value, sesame seeds contribute to sustainable agriculture practices. Requiring minimal water compared to other crops, sesame cultivation aligns with environmentally friendly farming, making it an eco-conscious choice.