Sesame seeds come from the flowers of Sesamum indicum, an herb that grows in hot, dry climates. When the flowers reach maturity, the seeds are suddenly expelled from the capsule and it is believed that this phenomenon is at the origin of the famous “Open sesame” so useful to Ali Baba to open the cave of treasures… The seeds of sesame have a mild flavor that can be developed by roasting. The black seeds, with a more pronounced aroma, are mainly used in China, Korea and Japan, where consumption can reach around 5 grams per day.
Oil is the main constituent of sesame seeds and can make up to 55% of the weight of the seeds. This excellent quality oil is very resistant to oxidation caused by high temperatures, and its unique fragrance enhances the taste of cooked dishes. Sesame oil also contains a high proportion of monounsaturated fats, fats that have multiple health benefits by lowering bad cholesterol levels while raising good cholesterol levels.
Sesame: in the prevention of chronic diseases
In addition to their high oil content, sesame seeds contain exceptional levels of lignans, a class of molecules with several biological activities and which could play an important role in the prevention of certain chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. This lignan content is particularly important for the prevention of breast cancer, since these molecules show a similarity in structure with estrogens and can therefore attenuate the harmful effects caused by too large quantities of these hormones, a phenomenon often involved in growth. breast tumours.
Even if a protective role of these phytoestrogens remains to be better understood, the studies carried out so far are extremely encouraging: for example, a recent study showed that women who consumed the highest quantity of lignans, i.e. approximately 1 to 5 milligrams per day, had a risk of developing breast cancer almost 30% lower than those who consumed the least (less than 1 mg per day). Similar results have been published by a team of Swedish researchers, and it seems increasingly clear that the regular consumption of foods rich in lignans could represent an essential element for the prevention of breast cancer. Since sesame seeds represent one of the best sources of lignans, just behind flax seeds, there is no doubt that the addition of these seeds to the diet could help prevent the development of this cancer.
Cardiovascular protection and during menopause
Sesame lignans may also have positive effects on the cardiovascular system. Animal studies have shown that sesamin and sesamolin, the two main lignans found in sesame seeds and sesame oil, have strong antioxidant activity and reduce blood fat levels by accelerating the breakdown of these fats in the liver. These molecules also interfere with the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine as well as with the synthesis of pro-inflammatory molecules (prostaglandins), two effects that could help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It is also interesting to note that a study carried out with postmenopausal women showed that the daily consumption of 50 grams of sesame powder for 5 weeks caused a 20% decrease in bad cholesterol as well as a 23% drop in its oxidation level.
Even if these beneficial effects need to be better characterized, it seems that the regular consumption of sesame has multiple positive effects on the cardiovascular system and could therefore contribute to the prevention of these diseases.
Toillaud et al. Dietary lignan intake and postmenopausal breast cancer risk by estrogen and progesterone receptor status. J. Natl Cancer Inst. 99: 475-486 Suzuki et al. Lignans and breast cancer risk in pre- and post-menopausal women: meta-analyses of observational studies Br. J. Cancer; 98: 636-640.
Wu et al. J. Nutr. Sesame Ingestion Affects Sex Hormones, Antioxidant Status, and Blood Lipids in Postmenopausal Women; 136: 1270-1275