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Open Sesame! How this tasty, nutty oil helps to REDUCE the risk of inflammation

Open Sesame! How this tasty, nutty oil helps to REDUCE the risk of inflammation

Sesame seed oil, a staple of Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, is known among aficionados as the “Queen of Oilseeds.” The rich, nutty flavor of sesame is indispensable to delicacies such as sesame noodles, tahini and hummus. In addition to its culinary use, sesame oil - which is made from the seeds of the plant botanically known as Sesamum indicum - has long been valued in Ayurveda and Chinese Traditional Medicine for its anti-inflammatory qualities.

Scientists have discovered that long-term systemic inflammation is a primary culprit in many chronic degenerative conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and arthritis. Don’t let sesame seed oil’s pleasant taste deceive you – it is actually a storehouse of no-nonsense antioxidant compounds that can help to prevent and treat these conditions.

Sesame oil can help you with aches and pains

Close to 15 percent of the population in the United States suffers from osteoarthritis – and the stiff, aching joints that accompany it. Chronic inflammation - which is part of a self-perpetuating cycle of local tissue damage, inflammation and repair - can worsen the damage already caused by joint injury and overuse.

But, sesame oil might be just what the (integrative) doctor ordered. In a recent (2019) review published in Phytotherapy Research, the authors declared that sesame seed oil has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In fact, they reported that sesame oil inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory molecules – such as lipoxygenase (LOX) and cyclooxygenase -2 (COX-2). The researchers concluded with a glowing endorsement, stating that sesame oil may be “one of the most promising traditional medicines … in the prevention and management of diseases associated with oxidative stress and inflammation.”

Although more clinical research is needed, one 2015 study showed that sesame seed oil benefited patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. There is also evidence that massaging sesame oil into the skin can reduce pain in muscles and joints.

Can you actually promote cardiovascular health with sesame seed oil?

Sesame oil is rich in heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which can help protect the cardiovascular system. In addition, sesame oil contains powerful antioxidants - particularly sesamol and sesaminol - that reduce cell damage and inflammation caused by free radicals. In fact, sesame oil can ramp up the activity of important antioxidants produced within the body, such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione.

The result: improved cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that sesame oil protects against damage to heart cells, while fighting atherosclerosis by slowing the deposits of arterial plaque.

Experts say that even the simple act of substituting sesame oil for oils high in saturated fats - such as coconut and palm oils - can help lower cholesterol levels. And, one study found that 4 tablespoons a day of sesame oil reduced harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides even more successfully than olive oil, which natural health experts hold in high regard for its ability to promote heart health.

Finally, sesame oil may also help to modulate C-reactive protein, an enzyme associated with heart disease.

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Sesame oil promotes efficient blood sugar regulation, thereby lowering diabetes risk. In one animal study, putting diabetic rats on a 6 percent sesame oil diet for six weeks caused significant reductions in blood sugar, compared to rats not given the oil.

Human studies have supported the antidiabetic action of sesame oil, as well. In a 2018 placebo-controlled trial published in the prestigious Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 46 adults with type 2 diabetes were given sesame oil for 90 days. The volunteers substantially reduced both their fasting blood sugar levels and their A1c levels, which measure blood sugar control over time. The team concluded that sesame seed oil is a functional food that may play an important role in regulating blood sugar and easing the unwanted effects of type 2 diabetes.

Whether applied topically or ingested, this delicious oil offers wonderful health benefits

Sesame seed oil is available in two varieties: unrefined and refined. Unrefined oil is lighter in color and best utilized for cooking at low to medium heat, while refined sesame oil is more appropriate for stir-frying. Sesame oil is considered by many to be the safest cooking oil, as its high smoke point (around 400 degrees) means that it is less likely to release free radicals into the air if overheated.

And, don’t forget about toasted sesame oil. Made from toasted sesame seeds, the oil features a deep brown color and a savory, smoky taste. Hint: Toasted sesame oil is best showcased in salad dressings and marinades – and partners exceptionally well with ginger.

Versatile sesame seed oil can also be applied topically as a soothing, pain-relieving massage oil and a moisturizer.  (Due to its content of fatty acids such linoleic, oleic and palmitic acids, sesame seed oil is ideal for hydrating skin).  And - unlike essential oils - sesame oil is so mild that it needs no dilution before applying.

Sesame oil is also a boon to your hair, with natural beauty experts swearing by its ability to add luster and suppleness. Massage it directly into scalp and roots as a natural conditioner and leave it on for at least an hour.

Whether you choose to savor sesame oil’s pleasing taste or pamper yourself by massaging it into skin, it’s easy to access the benefits of this nutritious and healthy oil.

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