What are sesame seeds and where do they come from? For a start, wikipedia provides some general information. Sesame seeds are frequently used in Asian cooking to provide a delicate crunch. They are also the main ingredients in tahini (sesame seed paste) and the Middle Eastern sweet call halvah. They are available throughout the year.
Sesame seeds may be the oldest condiment (A condiment is a substance applied to food, usually in the form of a garnish, powder, or spread, to enhance or improve the flavor) known to man dating back to as early as 1600 BC. They are highly valued for their oil which is frequently used in Chinese dishes. “Open sesame,” the famous phrase from the story of Ali Baba, reflects the distinguishing feature of the sesame seed pod, which bursts open when it reaches maturity. The scientific name for sesame seeds is Sesamun indicum.
Now, what about its health benefits? Sesame seeds are a very good source of manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, vitamin B1, zinc and dietary fiber. Sesame seeds also contain as much protein as chicken or fish (22 – 27% depending on the crop). In addition to these important nutrients, sesame seeds contain two unique substances: sesamin and sesamolin. Both these substances belong to a group of special beneficial fibers called lignans. These substances have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans. Sesamin has also been found to protect the liver from oxidative damage.
Here comes the big punch. Sesame seeds, like most dietery fiber, cannot be digested by humans unless they are finely grounded or pulverized before consumption. For people who are familiar with Chinese desserts, think about 芝麻糊. So, for all humans out there, remember that the sesame seeds found on hamburger buns and chee cheong fan are *not* digestible unless you give them a really good chew. Otherwise, the nutrients will not be digested nor assimilated into the human body and the intact sesame seeds are simply excreted.