In the familiar Arabian tale, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” Ali Baba gains access to the magically protected lair of a band of marauding thieves by uttering the words “open sesame”. Now, modern research suggests you should open yourself to the idea of incorporating sesame—and sesame oil—into your daily diet.
Although it’s widely available in Asia, in the United States sesame oil can usually be found as a speciality item in the international or Asian sections of the supermarket. Adventurous cooks may have some experience adding this flavorful, nutty-tasting oil to Asian salad dressings, or as an addition to stir-fry dishes. But emerging research suggests that sesame oil deserves a more prominent place in the pantry, and on the table.
Like olives and olive oil, sesame seeds and sesame oil contain some potent natural antioxidant compounds that have been shown to benefit various aspects of health. Sesame and sesame oil contain compounds called lignans, among others. These compounds are believed to be responsible for helping lower cholesterol levels, while high concentrations of vitamin E are thought to work with these compounds to increase antioxidant levels in the bloodstream, and help lower blood pressure. Several studies have shown that sesame helps lower total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. Other studies on animal models of human diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, suggest that sesame even helps control blood sugar levels.
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