Considered one of the world’s first spices, sesame seeds have long been a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In TCM, black-colored foods are said to nourish the kidneys, support the reproductive systems, strengthen bones, increase libido, and support longevity. Black sesame seeds in particular are used by TCM practitioners to help nourish the liver, kidneys, and blood, as well as lubricate the intestines, alleviating constipation, detoxing the body, promoting lactation, and aiding recovery from illness.
The important difference between black and white sesame seeds
Think of white sesame seeds — the kind you’ll find on burger buns — as a naked black sesame seed. More accurately, white sesame seeds are likely to be hulled, meaning they’ve had their outer shell removed. This makes them milder in taste, but also less nutritious. A tablespoon of black sesame seeds, which have their shells intact, contains two times the iron, three times the copper, nearly two times the manganese, a third more potassium, and a whopping seventeen times the calcium (88 mg vs 5 mg) compared to hulled sesame seeds.
Researchers have found that not only is the nutritional value between the two different, but so are the metabolic pathways — components in black sesame seeds and the health benefits were found to be consistent with results found in TCM studies.
Lower your blood pressure
Hypertension — systolic blood pressure that’s 130 or higher — is a risk for cardiovascular disease and it is experienced by almost half of adults in the United States. Here’s how adding black sesame to your diet can make a difference: a study on the effects of black sesame meal on blood pressure among people with pre-hypertension found that just four weeks of daily black sesame intake decreased systolic blood pressure from an average of 129 to 121 (under 120 is considered normal blood pressure).
Lower your cholesterol
Your cholesterol, another component of heart health, benefits from this tiny black seed too. Black sesame seeds are richer in phytosterols, which lower cholesterol, than any other seed or nut commonly consumed in the United States.
Prevent and fight cancer
Two compounds in black sesame seeds — sesamol and sesamin — have demonstrated anticancer properties in multiple studies, combating oxidative stress, regulating a cell’s life cycle, and promoting the destruction of cancer cells. Research has proven sesame seeds to be effective in reducing the risk of colorectal tumors, thereby preventing colorectal cancer.
Sesame seeds are packed with nutrients that have stress-relieving properties. Take thiamin (vitamin B1) — it works to calm and aid in nerve functioning, and when you are thiamin-deficient, you may experience muscle spasms, moodiness, and depression. Tryptophan is another — it may sound familiar as the essential amino acid in turkey that helps you sleep better after your Thanksgiving meal. Tryptophan aids in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood, sleep patterns, and pain.
Look your best
Yep, black sesame can even help you look great:
- Swishing sesame seed oil in your mouth can remove plaque and whiten your teeth, a practice also known as oil pulling
- TCM recommends black sesame seeds to reverse signs of aging like gray hair and wrinkles, and East Asian cultures have long incorporated this ingredient into many of their dishes
- The vitamin E in black sesame seeds keeps skin vibrant from the inside out
Whether you’re after the aforementioned long-term or the short-term effects, a little black sesame will go a long way. Next time you visit a local grocery store, pick up a bag of black sesame seeds and you can try our tang yuan or Chinese sweet dumpling recipe. You can also find black sesame seeds in NOOCI’s ReNoo Women’s Longevity formula, which is formulated to give your health an all-around boost.