best natural foods

Sesame oil benefits

The many and varied sesame oil benefits stem from its uses as a cooking oil, a flavouring oil and even a massage oil!

As a Chinese, I had always thought of sesame oil as an oil used in Chinese or at least East Asian cuisine, including the cusines of the Japanese and Koreans.

And I always thought of it primarily as a flavouring oil as toasted sesame oil has a wonderful flavor.

So I was surprised to discover that it is also used extensively in South India. Sure, I knew that the Indians call it gingelly oil but I always thought that the predominant cooking oils in India were ghee in the north and coconut oil in the south.

I was even more surprised to learn that the Indians knew about the many sesame oil benefits since ancient times and had already produced and exported sesame or gingerly oil around 2500 BC.

Enough of history. let's now look at the benefits of sesame oil in its many applications...

Cooking with sesame oil

As an oil for human consumption and especially a cooking oil, the main sesame oil benefits arise from the fact that it is high in monounsaturated fats. This is seldom highlighted and most articles about sesame oil benefits talk about its content of polyunsaturated fats playing a role in preventing high blood pressure.

In reality, sesame oil contains roughly equal amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsatured fatty acids - roughly 40 percent each, sometimes a bit more monounsaturated fats, sometimes more polyunsaturated fats, depending on the source of the sesame seeds. The rest, just under 20 percent, comprises saturated fats.

The relatively high content of monounsatuated and saturated fats means that sesame oil has a high smoke point. So one of the sesame oil benefits is that it is suitable for high temperature cooking.

White or untoasted sesame oil - called gingelly oil in India - has a higher smoke point and can be used for deep frying. Toasted sesame oils are still suitable for Chinese-style stir fries, which also involve fairly high heat, especially when used in Chinese restaurants.

Click here to read more about sesame oil benefits as a cooking and flavoring oil.

Lignans and antioxidants

Just as olive oli benefits arise largely from its content of antioxidants and not just from its fatty acid profile, the same is true of sesame oil benefits.

Sesame seeds and sesame oil contain a number of lignans, including sesamin, sesaminol and sesamolin. Lignans are phytoestrogens - plant chemicals similar to estrogens, which are female sex hormones. These chemicals help maintain the body's hormonal balance.

Sesame lignans also have antioxidant properties and they are emerging as the latest "star" antioxidants. Some, particularly sesamin, have already begun to be marketed as health supplements. Among other things, sesame lignans have been found to:

Sesame lignans also enhance the actions of other nutrients, including:

The antioxidant sesame oil benefits has another useful application - to prevent other oils from turning rancid when exposed to heat, light and air. In the past, synthetic antioxidants were mainly used for this purpose. But researchers have found that fish oil and other polyunsaturated oils keep better when mixed with sesame oil. And this natural mix is more widely acceptable to consumers.

Calcium in sesame oil

Another of the seldom-mentioned sesame oil benefits is its rich content of calcium.

Sesame contains about 14 times as much calcium as cow's milk. Together with hijiki seaweed, it is one of the richest food sources of calcium. Sesame seeds heave to be crushed before this calcium is available but in sesame oil, the calcium is readily absorbed by the body.

A popular "confinement dish" for Chinese women after they have given birth is pigs trotters cooked with vinegar, ginger and sesame oil.

Many people now consider this "unhealthy" because the lard in pig's trotters is rich in saturated fats. In reality, this dish reveals an instinctive and profound knowledge of food, including sesame oil benefits.

Vinegar dissolves calcium from the bones of the pig's trotters during cooking, but will not dissolve calcium from the body because once consumed and digested, vinegar makes the body condition alkaline, not acidic. Meanwhile sesame oil provides yet more calcium and the saturated fat in pork lard helps the body to absorb calcium. Finally, ginger warms the body.

It is full of traditional wisdom.

Massage and oil pulling

Apart from its benefits as an oil for consumption, two other sesame oil benefits are worth mentioning:

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