Is It Healthy?
What is sesame oil?
Sesame oil is a vegetable oil, produced by pressing the seeds of the sesame plant which is found in the tropics. Its distinctive nutty and fragrant aroma and taste makes it an essential ingredient in most of the Asian kitchens. Besides being used as a cooking oil, it is also a flavour enhancer in many cuisines. It can be used as a seasoning, a marinade or a dressing. As this oil provides many health benefits, it is also known as “The Queen of Oils”.
Types of sesame oil
The 2 main types of sesame oil are unrefined and refined.
Fatty Acid Breakdown:
Omega-3: Omega-6 ratio = 1 : 45
Cold-pressed sesame oil is rich in nutrients and provides a wide range of health benefits:
- High in antioxidants
Sesame oil is rich in antioxidants sesamin, sesamol and sesaminol which may be significantly beneficial for health1. Antioxidants neutralise or remove free radicals, which would otherwise lead to inflammation and onset of diseases2. Sesamin is the most abundant lignan in sesame seed, it has shown to help support healthy blood pressure3, reduce cholesterol4, promote vitamin E absorption5 and protect against liver damage6.
- Provide anti-inflammatory effects
Chronic inflammation or long-term inflammation has been linked to a broad range of diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis and others. Several tests showed that sesame oil helps reduce inflammation including decreasing inflammatory markers7,8,9.
- Support heart health
A human trial showed that individuals who consumed 4 tablespoons (~60g) of sesame oil daily for a month had greater reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, compared to those who consumed olive oil10. Besides, animal test suggested that this oil may slow the development of plaque in the blood vessels and help prevent heart disease11.
- Support healthy blood sugar
A human trial conducted on adults with type 2 diabetes found that taking sesame oil for 90 days significantly reduced fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), which is an indicator of long-term blood sugar control12. The higher the HbA1c, the greater the risk of developing diabetes-related complications.
- May support joint health
Several animal tests have associated sesame oil to the improvement of arthritis, one of the most common causes of joint pain, swelling and stiffness13,14,15. Although animal tests have shown that it may provide relief for arthritis, clinical trials are required to confirm its efficacy on human beings.
- Imbalanced omega-3 to omega-6 ratio
The omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of sesame oil is 1 : 45, while the ideal ratio is between 2 : 1 and 4 : 1. Most of us are already consuming far too much omega-6 to omega-3 in our daily diet. Excessive omega-6 and insufficient omega-3 may potentially create a pro-inflammatory environment. As an occasional ingredient in Chinese cuisine, this is not something to worry about. Nonetheless, if you consume large amounts of sesame oil regularly, you are recommended to increase omega-3 rich foods to your diet. Alternatively, consider using other oils that are high in omega-3s, such as camelina oil and flaxseed oil.
- Unrefined sesame oil cannot withstand high heat
Although unrefined sesame oil retains the beneficial nutrients and natural flavours, it tends to have lower smoke point of 177°C (350°F). Thus, it is best used for raw applications such as dressings and marinades, or low- to medium- heat cooking, but not high-heat cooking such as deep-frying.
- Refined sesame oil lacks nutrients
Refined sesame oil that is completely processed with the use of chemicals and heat has a high smoke point of 210°C (410°F) and hence, can be used for high-heat cooking such as deep-frying. However, the refined oil is not flavourful and the taste is neutral. Furthermore, the refining process also removes most of the beneficial nutrients present in the oil, making it less nutritious than unrefined oil.
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