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Open Sesame! 11 Surprising Benefits of Using Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is generating buzz for good reasons. Recent studies show sesame oil health benefits are pretty promising. Plus, it's great for your skin and hair. Oh, and of course, sesame oil is a healthy way to add an amazing flavor to your cooking. Open sesame!

sesame oil and seedsiStock/ChamilleWhite

Use sesame oil as a healthy fat

By now, most of us know that fats comes in different varieties. Some are good, bad, or downright awful for health. “Sesame oil is rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats,” says Edwina Clark, RD, and head of nutrition and wellness at “Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are ‘heart healthy’ and help keep cholesterol under control,” says Clark. On the other hand, saturated (“bad” fat) and transfats (“awful” fat) boost inflammation and total cholesterol, which is bad for your heart, according to a study in the journal PLoS One. A 1/4 cup of sesame oil contains about 6.75 grams of monounsaturated fat, 7.84 grams of polyunsaturated fat and 2.50 grams of saturated fat. Avoid these 13 foods cardiologists try to never eat.

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Use it for a pre-bedtime foot massages

We all have our rituals for bedtime. Brushing our teeth, washing our face, applying miracle cream to our face, but how about doing something that feels relaxing like a foot massage? Self-massage is a fundamental part of an Ayurvedic health regimen and sesame oil has benefit for your skin. (Ayurveda is a holistic method practiced in India for at least 5,000 years and recently has grown in popularity in Western cultures.) “Rubbing a teaspoon or so of sesame oil into the soles of your feet before bed can help you get a more restful night sleep,” suggests Danielle Flug Capalino MSPH, RD of New York City. Remember, to put on a pair of socks after you apply the oil, so you don’t slip. Woke up at 2 a.m. and can’t fall back to sleep? Try these insomnia remedies.

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Sesame oil is good for dental hygiene

Our ancestors didn’t have toothbrushes to use for healthy teeth or fresh breath, so long ago they used oil pulling to keep their mouths clean. “Swishing sesame oil in one’s mouth for up to 10 minutes is another Ayurvedic technique,” says Jillian Tuchman, MS, RD, of New York City. “Medical studies have shown that this can reduce amount of bacteria in the mouth and helps to keep your mouth and gums healthy.” (Here’s a healthy cooking oil guide you should check out for other health and wellness hacks.)

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Sesame oil gives your skin and bones a boost

Sesame oil doesn’t have the same nutrition profile as sesame seeds because the oil is made from an isolated portion of the plant. But one of the minerals that sticks around: zinc. We often think of zinc when we have a cold or the flu because it may shorten or lessen the severity of the symptoms. But zinc is also used in the body for producing collagen and giving our skin more elasticity. Zinc can also help our bone density. Are you getting enough zinc?

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It helps you go

From time to time we all experience constipation. Drinking plenty of water and getting enough fiber in your diet helps to keep running things smoothly but sometimes we fall off the fiber wagon or we take meds that make us constipated. Another sesame oil benefit is that it can help get things moving again. “Taking one to two tablespoons (either spaced out between morning and evening or taken as one larger dose in the evening) can help to lubricate your bowels to ease constipation,” says Tuchman. Not a fan of taking sesame oil plain? Try sesame seeds or these other home remedies for constipation.

happy woman, long hair flying in windiStock/mirelabella

Sesame oil helps keep your hair shiny and full

Most of us probably have several half empty bottles of various hair products lying around because the promise didn’t produce results. Sesame oil contains both vitamins B and E, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous—essential nutrients that nourish your hair and scalp. Head to your pantry instead of your bathroom cabinet and grab the sesame oil for a little lock love. “Massage some sesame oil into roots and scalp and let it soak in for about 30 minutes. Rinse with warm water and shampoo the next morning or shampoo after the initial 30 minutes if you prefer, ” suggests Clark. Find out other ways your diet affects your hair.

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Fight off free radicals

Free radicals cause damage to our DNA, cells and proteins. This kind of damage can lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and cancer. Certain substances like alcohol, tobacco smoke, pesticides, air pollutants and the food we eat generate free radicals. It’s important we eat a diet rich in antioxidants, to fight free radical damage and reduce oxidative stress. “Emerging evidence suggest that this could be useful for combating arthritis, cancer progression, nerve injuries and inflammation, although it’s still early days,” says Clark.

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Sesame oil can take the heat

We love our extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil for cooking but it’s also prone to burn at high heat. Besides smelling up the kitchen and ruining our food, burnt oil isn’t good for our health. “Smoke point is the temperature at which fat breaks down, and begins releasing free radicals and off-odors,” says Clark. What’s great about sesame oil is it has a smoke point of around 400 degrees F, so it can be used to cook a wide range of foods without releasing harmful substances into the air. Go ahead and add the safest cooking oil to your grocery list.

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Tempting for the taste buds

Sesame oil benefits are a good excuse to use in cooking but it also adds flavor too. “Sesame oil has a nutty taste and is readily used in Chinese and Korean cooking, as well some south Indian dishes,” says Clark. You may see toasted sesame oil and sesame oil on the grocery shelf. Toasted sesame oil is made from toasted sesame seeds and darker. It boasts a nutty and smoky flavor. Sesame oil is made with un-toasted seeds and lighter. It’s primarily used for cooking. Both should be stored in the fridge to prevent it from getting rancid, especially if you don’t use them often. (Here are surprising foods that do not need to go in the fridge.)

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A little goes a long way

“Sesame oil has a permanent spot in my pantry,” says Clark. She uses it for stir-fries, bibimbop bowls, and Korean-style tacos. “Given its strong flavor and aroma, you only need a small amount to make an impact.” Ready to open sesame? Here are some delicious ways to start “eating” sesame oil health benefits: sesame-ginger dressing, roasted carrot and quinoa salad, and healthy Thai sesame patties.

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It’s a tasty, healthy condiment

If you haven’t used sesame oil for cooking, we bet you’re curious to try it out. If you’re not up to making a meal, here are some quick and easy ways to try sesame oil or toasted sesame oil—the choice is yours: Shake some toasted sesame oil on ramen or cold, leftover noodles; splash sesame oil on a green salad; sprinkle some on cooked vegetables; add a few drops to a beaten egg for fluffier scrambled eggs or omelettes; substitute sesame oil for other oils in marinades; brush grilled asparagus and sweet corn with sesame oil; and use sesame oil (not toasted) in place of vegetable oil for popping corn on the stove top. (Here are unhealthy condiments you should avoid.)

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer and writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, HealthiNation, The Family Handyman, Taste of Home, and, among others. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center.