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Experience the Health Benefits of Sesame
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim
Did you know that half a cup of sesame seeds contains three times more calcium than half a cup of whole milk? In addition to being an excellent dietary source of calcium, sesame seeds are also a good source of manganese, copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1 (thiamin), zinc, vitamin E, healthy protein, and fiber.
Sesame seeds also contain sesamin and sesamolin, two substances that are thought to prevent high blood pressure and protect the liver against oxidative damage.
Here are two ways in which you can enjoy the distinctive flavor and health benefits of sesame seeds:
1/2 cup unhulled sesame seeds, available in most health food stores and some large markets
2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, also available in most health food stores
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
Toast unhulled sesame seeds in a dry pan over low to medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until seeds begin to brown and pop. Be sure to stir steadiliy while toasting.
Use a strong blender to grind toasted sesame seeds, nutritional yeast, and sea salt into a fine powder.
This delicious sesame seasoning can be sprinkled generously over vegetable salads, steamed vegetables, and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. Keep leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. The quantities listed above make approximately half a cup of sesame seasoning.
Tahini (Sesame Seed Paste)
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds - they don't have to be unhulled
1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of lukewarm water
Grind sesame seeds in a blender until smooth. Add sesame oil and sea salt. Then add 1/4 cup of water in a slow drizzle while blending and continue until all of the water has been added and the entire mixture is smooth. The quantities listed above make approximately half a cup of tahini. Be sure to store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Note: You can find high quality raw, organic tahini at most health foods stores - the one that we like and use in our home can be found in our natural health shop here: Artisana Raw, Organic Tahini
Note: sesame oil is relatively high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are easily damaged when exposed to heat and light. It is best to keep your consumption of sesame oil to a minimum. You can substitute the sesame oil in this recipe with extra water if you are concerned about your intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Another way to enjoy the health benefits of sesame is to include sesame leaves in your diet. Sesame leaves are a staple green vegetable in the traditional Korean diet, and are valued for their mineral density and strong aroma. They are as aromatic as herbs like basil and mint, but have a unique, nutty fragrance.
Sesame leaves are difficult to find in most supermarkets. They are readily available in Korean markets, packaged up in neatly stacked bundles. They can be used in fresh vegetable salads. They can also be used as wraps to eat with rice and miso, as described in the following recipe:
Korean Miso (Den Jang) Wraps
1 tablespoon of miso (or den jang, the Korean version of miso)
1 1/2 teaspoons of sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon of hot chili paste (optional)
Bowl of cooked brown or white rice
6-12 sesame leaves
Mix miso, sesame oil, and hot chilli paste together in a small bowl until uniform. This mixture is called sahm jang, and is typically served in a small bowl at the center of the table.
Place a small spoonful of rice in the center of a sesame leaf, add a small dollop of sahm jang to the rice, wrap it closed with the outer portions of the sesame leaf, and enjoy. You can use romaine, green leafy, or red leafy lettuce in addition to using sesame leaves, taking turns with any and all leafy greens that are available at the table for each new wrap.
Sesame leaves and sesame seeds come from a flowering plant called Sesamum indicum, which is an annual plant that grows to about 1.5 to 3 feet in height.
If you come to enjoy sesame leaves, I recommend that you try growing Sesamum indicum in your vegetable garden. My grandmother has grown this plant with ease here in Ontario over the past two decades. You can ask the owner of your local Korean market where you can buy seeds that will allow you to grow ggaen neep, the Korean word for sesame leaves. Alternatively, if you can find a Korean neighbor who grows this plant, ask him or her to save you some of the seeds that appear at the end of the growing season.
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