Sesame or til has more health benefits than most other seeds. It is one of the most common ingredients used in kitchens all around the world including India. While we do relish a tasty til ka ladoo, did you know that our ancestors were right on the money when they made sure to include til and its derivatives in almost all aspects of life? Sesame has been found to have a number of benefits apart from just adding colour, flavour and texture to your food.
Here are the top ten benefits of the tiny seed:
Lowers bad cholesterol.
Sesame seeds are rich in oleic acid, a potent mono-unsaturated fatty acid which lowers the ‘bad cholesterol’ or LDL cholesterol in the blood and increases the level of ‘good cholesterol’ or HDL in the body. Thereby helping you maintain a healthy lipid profile. All this in turn protects you from heart disease, stroke and atherosclerosis. (Read: Herbal remedies for high cholestrol)
Protects you from cancer.
Research has found that sesame has very potent anti-cancer properties. It has been found to be effective against a number of cancers like lung cancer, colon cancer, leukaemia, prostate cancer, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer. There have been a number of papers published on its efficacy in stopping the proliferation of blood vessels supplying the tumour, in changing the way white blood cells (or your immune system cells) are attracted to chemo attractants (substances that are attracted to cancer causing agents), in reducing the rate of infiltration of the cancer etc. All these benefits are brought about by a potent antioxidant known as sesamin. Sesamin stops and slows down the regeneration of cancer cells and stops the production of chemicals that are linked to their survival.
Helps reduce anxiety.
Rich in niacin, an essential vitamin, and sesame seeds are known to reduce anxiety. With almost 28% of the total necessary daily intake of niacin present in 100 grams of the seeds, it helps in improving the GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) activity inside the brain, thereby reducing anxiety and neurosis.
Keeps your heart muscles healthy.
Sesame seeds are extremely rich in essential minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. These minerals help to regulate cardiac muscle activity making them stronger and beat at regular intervals.(Read: Drink green tea for weight loss and to keep heart disease at bay!)
Helps maintain healthy bones in children.
Sesame seeds are rich in dietary proteins and very good quality of amino acids that are essential for the growth of bones in children. Just 100 g of the seed gives approximately eighteen grams of proteins. This combination is great for the uptake and use of proteins and amino acids by the child’s body, helping them grow stronger and better.
Helps keep pregnant mothers and growing foetuses healthy.
Packed with folic acid, sesame seeds are great for pregnant mothers. Since folic acid is essential in the proper DNA synthesis in growing foetuses and improves the all round health of a pregnant mother, sesame seeds and their derivatives like sesame oil lends greatly to the health of an expectant mother. .(Why pregnant mothers need folic acid in their diet)
Makes a great massage oil for babies.
While the benefits of massaging a baby after birth is still debatable, a number of Indian cultures still practice it. According to a study, sesame oil or til oil massage showed to improve the bone strength and their growth in babies. It also showed that the child was able to sleep better after a massage with the oil. According to Ayurveda, sesame oil is said to have a relaxing effect on a child and is cooling in nature. Its innate components also add to the healthy growth of the baby. Read more about massaging your baby.
Due to the zinc and calcium present in sesame seeds, they are great in preventing osteoporosis. The combination of essential minerals and vitamins help in the proper assimilation of calcium by the body, and zinc helps in preventing excessive leeching of calcium into the body.
Improves the efficacy of certain diabetes drugs
A study published by the Department of Biothechnology at the Vinayaka Missions University, Tamil Nadu, found that sesame helps to reduce blood pressure and has an anti glycaemic effect with up to 36% of reduction of the glucose levels in the blood when combined with the widely used anti-diabetic drug glibenclamide.  So for a type 2 diabetic, including sesame seeds is a great idea to fight the disease naturally.
Helps recovery after a stroke
Studies on animal models found that sesame seeds are great in restoring the blood flow to parts of the brain that have lost circulation due to a stroke. This study is based on the fact that the high amounts of magnesium and zinc present in the seed help in strengthening one’s blood circulation and neural impulses.
To include sesame into your daily diet, just eat them either roasted and sprinkled over your salad or cooked into your food. Another good way to include its benefits is to cook food in til ka tel/sesame oil or to make til ke laddo , jowar and til ke puri or a dessert like date and sesame puranpoli.