These days, it seems like we’re hearing a lot of conflicting information about fat. Is it good for us, or not? Does it lead to heart conditions, or is it actually beneficial for our health? The truth is, it depends on the type of fat. Healthy fats are essential to the proper functioning of a number of bodily systems. One dietary source of beneficial fat is sesame oil. It’s a great way to add flavor to a wide range of recipes, and it can support a healthy lifestyle in a number of ways.
Research suggests that consuming sesame oil can help to lower your blood pressure. One study in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine tracked hypertensive patients who were instructed to replace whatever cooking oil they had been using with sesame oil, and to use it as the only edible oil for a period of time. At the end of the study, the patients experienced lowered blood pressure, on average. And what’s more, after they went off of sesame oil and started using the oil they had used previously, their blood pressure rose again.
Studies have demonstrated that sesame oil can have beneficial effects for those suffering from diabetes as well — and particularly those who are both hypertensive and diabetic. A study in the Journal of Food and Medicine found that when sesame oil is used as the only oil in the diet, it can lower plasma glucose as well as blood pressure for those with diabetes and hypertension.
Sesamol, a compound found in sesame seeds and sesame oil, has been shown to have positive effects on a number of cancers, including prostate, breast, lung, leukemia, pancreatic, multiple myeloma and colon. One study in Life Sciences, for example, found that high concentrations of sesamol can actually fight colon cancer.
You may have heard of the use of coconut oil in oil pulling — the practice of swishing a spoonful of oil in your mouth daily to remove toxins. Well, sesame seed can be used in this way, as well. Both oils can have beneficial oral detoxification effects.
Because it is rich in polyunsaturated fat, sesame oil can be beneficial for the health of your heart. It can help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and lower cholesterol levels if they are high. It is also believed that sesame oil may be beneficial in reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Depression and anxiety
While more research is needed in this area, many believe that sesame oil can function as a mood booster. Tyrosine is an amino acid found in sesame oil and it has been linked to serotonin activity in the brain. Serotonin is released when we are having pleasurable experiences. So the thinking goes that more tyrosine means more serotonin, which will lead to a positive mood boost.
Again, more research is needed, but it is thought that sesame oil can help to fight inflammation because it is rich in copper, which is anti-inflammatory. Therefore, it is believed sesame oil can help to treat the symptoms of conditions like gout and arthritis, and that it can reduce swelling of the joints.
Sesame oil makes an excellent skin moisturizer, as well. Many believe that the zinc found in sesame seed oil has beneficial effects on the skin. For example, sesame oil is often used to improve skin elasticity and smoothness. And some believe that sesame oil can actually detox the skin, as oil-soluble toxins may be attracted to it. Therefore, letting the oil sit on your skin for about 15 minutes may draw out toxins. However, these claims are mostly anecdotal.
Sesame oil makes a great natural hair product, as well. Massaging a little into your scalp can help to keep your hair shiny. It can also treat dry scalp and dandruff. Of course, those with fine hair will want to apply the oil before shampooing, as too much oil may weigh the hair down.
It is also believed that the minerals found in sesame oil, like copper, zinc and calcium, can contribute to the health of your bones. These are minerals that are important to bone growth, so having enough of them in your diet can help you to maintain strong bones. And as you age, it can help to prevent conditions like osteoporosis.
Clearly, there are a number of reasons to consider including sesame oil in your diet. A word of caution for those taking blood-thinning medications: Sesame oil, it’s thought, can have a blood-thinning effect, so be sure to consult your doctor before increasing your intake of sesame oil.
As with any dietary suggestion, what is important is how you feel. If including sesame oil as a regular part of your diet causes you to feel better in some way, the continue doing it. Being aware of the needs of our unique bodies is how we find the diets that work best for us — and how we know when we need to make adjustments to what we’re doing.
— Sarah Cooke