Sesame Seed Oil Health Benefits
There has been a lot of hype surrounding sesame seed oil and if you are like most skeptics, you will want to get to the bottom of it.
Every year there is a new trend in the natural community and while many of them have been backed by scientific research and studies, others have proven to be hoaxes.
Is sesame seed oil the miracle oil persons have been bragging about, or are its benefits another misconception? Find out the answers to this and more below when we uncover the truth about sesame seed oil.
Where does it come from?
Sesame seed oil comes from the seeds of the sesame plant (sesamum indicum). This oil has been extracted by humans for thousands of years and is one of the earliest forms of cooking oil that was traded amongst early civilizations. Today, sesame seed oil most popular in the Asian, African and Middle-Eastern markets, but it is also produced in the United States on a smaller scale.
To produce this oil, the seeds of the sesame plants are harvested by hand and extracted using various methods. In some countries, typically developing, the oil is extracted using cheap and manual-intensive methods such as water flotation, bridge, and ram presses, the Ghani process or small-scale expellers. In developed countries which can afford the technology to produce it faster, the sesame seed oil is extracted using large-scale extraction machines and chemical solvents.
Cold-pressing is another means of extraction which is done at low-temperatures which produces high-quality, pure sesame seed oil.
The color of the oil is dependent on the method of extraction. Sesame seed oil extracted using the cold-press method is typically a pale-yellow color, while methods that consist of heat have a golden to dark-brown color.
What is it used for?
Sesame seed oil is used widely for cooking in the Eastern parts of the world, on everything from ramen to eggs and salads. But cooking is not its only use. Other uses of sesame seed oil include:
Hair and skincare
Sesame seed oil contains hair-healthy vitamins B and E, along with nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. The oil can be applied to the scalp to provide hydration and nourishment, or heated and used as an oil treatment to make hair stronger and healthier. It can also be used to delay greying and reduce hair loss.
Zinc contained within the sesame seeds also helps to produce collagen which makes the skin more elastic. It can also help treat dry, inflamed, irritated or damaged skin.
The antibacterial properties of sesame seed oil make it a great moisturizer if you suffer from acne, and it can also soothe eczema and psoriasis.
Cancer treatment and prevention
Chemical compounds found within sesame seed oil such as sesamol and sesamin are known to reduce certain cancer cells and prevent them from spreading. They also help to stimulate the body’s natural defense mechanism to help it to attack cancer cells.
Mental health treatment
If you prefer natural treatment methods to deal with your anxiety, depression or even stress , you can benefit from consuming sesame seed oil. This is due to the presence of an amino acid called tyrosine which helps to increase the level of serotonin in the body, thereby boosting your mood.
Improving heart health and blood circulation
Sesame seed oil contains many nutrients that directly contribute to heart health and blood circulation. The presence of zinc and copper in the oil will help to improve bodily function which will allow you to produce new red blood cells. These healthy new red blood cells also foster healthy organs.
In addition to zinc and copper, sesame seed oil also contains polyphenols which help to lower cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular disease.
Aggressive brushing and flossing of the teeth cause tears in the gum. These can then become infected and cause further problems down the line if not treated properly, if at all.
Some dentists recommend oil pulling as a means of treating these tears. This process involves using natural, cold-pressed oils to pull harmful bacteria from the teeth, gums, and throat by swishing it around in the mouth for about 15 minutes.
It can also be used to treat plaque buildup, fight the bacteria which cause bad breath and as a part of the daily routine for preventing cavities and diseases like gingivitis.
While sesame seed oil cannot replace foods which are dense in nutrient, it contains some vitamins and nutrients which are beneficial to human health. In one tablespoon of sesame seed oil you will find:
- Calories: 120
- Total Fat: 14g
- Saturated Fat: 1.9g
- Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g
- Monounsaturated Fat: 5g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
- Sodium: 0mg
- Total Carbohydrate: 0g
- Dietary Fiber: 0g
- Sugars: 0g
- Protein: 0g
- Omega-3: 40.5mg
Sesames seed oil does not contain any minerals, however, it contains Vitamin E and K.
Type of Fat
There are good fats, and there are bad fats. However, sesame seed oil contains high percentages of good fats namely polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, and low percentages of the bad, saturated fats.
Taste and smell
The taste and smell of sesame seed oil depend on how it was made.
Cold-pressed sesame seed oil has a mild nutty, yet slightly musky taste with a grassy undertone. Others have even said that it is flavorless. Its smell is fragrant, like that of sesame seeds. It is more commonly used in the actual cooking of food.
On the other hand, sesame seed oil that was made by roasting/toasting are darker and has a flavor to match its appearance. It is primarily used as a finisher/topper because of its strong flavor.
Light sesame seed oil has a high smoke point of around 400°F. This means that it can take the heat and be used in a variety of dishes. However, dark sesame oil has a much lower smoke point.
Sesame seed oil has been very popular on the Asian and African continents for hundreds of years because of the benefits it provides. Here are some reasons why sesame seed use is so prevalent:
- It can be used as seasoning- In Asia, much of the use of sesame seed oil is as a condiment. Instead of cooking with it, it is added to finished food to improve flavor and color. It can also be used as a marinade or dressing for red meat such as steak.
- It protects and strengthens the skin and hair- Sesame seed oil is added to cosmetic products or used in its pure form to keep the hair and skin healthy and to treat conditions such as sun/wind exposure, acne, dandruff, fungus, lice and can even prevent malignant melanoma.
- It is a natural remedy for many physical ailments- Sesame seed oil is a part of traditional medicine in many parts of the world. It is used to treat constipation, hemorrhoids, bronchitis, menstrual symptoms, insomnia, arthritis, sinus, intestinal colic, athlete’s foot, earaches, sore throats, and even vaginal yeast infection.
- Low oxidative stability- Despite having better heat stability than most seed oils, the volatile compounds in sesame seed oil will increase if stored at temperatures about 60°C. When placed in a microwave for a few minutes, volatile aldehyde compounds will also develop.
- May cause an allergic reaction- Individuals who are allergic to nuts or seeds are at a higher risk of having an allergic reaction when using sesame seed oil. Though reported incidents are low, cases of contact dermatitis have been increasing due to topical applications.
- It can cause diarrhea- In large doses, sesame seed oil may cause diarrhea . It is recommended that no more than half an ounce be consumed daily.
What’s the best way to use it
The light-colored sesame seed oil has a higher smoke point than the dark sesame seed oil. This makes it suitable for high-heat cooking methods such as frying and stir-frying. It may also be used to sauté and sear food.
Dark sesame seed oil isn’t suitable for high-heat cooking, it may be added towards the end of stir-frying to preserve the flavor. It can also be used in making an omelet. In India, it is used to make curries and gravies.
If you happen to run out of light sesame seed oil, you can try any other light oils such as olive or avocado oil. These provide the same or similar health benefits of sesame seed oil.
For a dish which requires roasted/toasted (dark) sesame seed oil for flavoring, you could try adding roasted sesame seeds to another neutral oil to get that distinct flavor. Other oils which can provide that nutty flavor are peanut oil and walnut oil.
For the smell, perilla oil gives off a similar aroma as sesame seed oil and even has a similar taste.
Things to note
- Despite being rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, sesame seed oil takes a much longer time to turn rancid when left out in the open. This is because of sesamol, a natural antioxidant found in sesame seed oil.
- When storing low-quality sesame oil, such as the dark variety, it is best to store it in an amber-colored bottle to limit sunlight exposure.
- Dark sesame seed oil has a strong flavor and a little goes a long way.
Conclusion- Healthy or Unhealthy?
Sesame seed oil can be a healthy addition to your meal, depending on what it is used for. Just remember that at the end of the day, it is still an oil so it should be used in moderation.