Sesame seeds

They may be tiny but sesame seeds are a nutritional goldmine providing many essential nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper. The seeds – and the tahini paste made from them and available in jars – are a great addition to almost any meal.

If you add a spoonful of tahini to a smoothie, pasta sauce, casserole or a stir-fry, you’re getting an extra important nutrient dose. Calcium is essential for healthy bones, muscle and nerve system; iron for blood formation and more; zinc for healthy immune system and bones; whilst copper is a crucial component in some vital molecules in our bodies and can help reduce arthritis symptoms.

Sesame seeds that haven’t been hulled (shelled) contain a little more calcium but it’s the kind that is less absorbable than that found in the seed itself so the difference is negligible.

Sesame seeds also contain sesamin and sesamolin – natural compounds that belong to the family of beneficial fibres called lignans. They have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and have been suggested to help prevent cancer and protect the liver through boosting liver enzymes.

Sesame oil is very popular in Asian dishes and although it should be used sparingly – just because it’s almost pure fat – it has a high smoke point, which makes it good for stir-fry dishes where oils can burn easily.