February 17 2012

Black Sesame Seeds – An Asian Superfood

black sesame seed soup

Black sesame seeds are one of the best everyday foods we can add to our diets as we age, according to traditional Chinese medicine.

As we get older, our “yin jing”—our very essence—can get depleted by prolonged or extreme stress, overwork, illness, childbirth, or even by aging itself. A depleted yin jing is associated with premature aging.

Although there are certain herbs that can be used to strengthen yin jing, black sesame seeds are considered a yin jing tonic and are thought to promote longevity and even slow the development of gray hair.

From a nutritional perspective, black sesame seeds are a very good source of copper and manganese and are also a good source of magnesium, calcium, iron, and other minerals and dietary fiber.

In Asian cuisine, black sesame seeds are normally roasted and then added to cooking. Black sesame seed soup is popular as a dessert and among people who are trying to boost their health. The soup is made of ground rice, ground black sesame seeds, water, and sugar and is available in some Chinese restaurants and in dry powdered form in Asian grocery stores.

Last weekend, I was in a Korean grocery store and came across black bean and black sesame seed powder. Black beans are another tonic food.

I bought a jar, but was also inspired me to make my own recipe, so that I could pre-soak the black sesame seeds before roasting and grinding them. Black sesame seeds are particularly high in phytic acid, which binds with minerals in our intestines, impairing their absorption, and inhibits certain enzymes needed for digestion. Soaking and roasting them can greatly decrease the phytic acid content.

I made some other changes. Instead of white sugar and white rice, I used coconut sugar and brown rice and added chia seeds to give the soup a tapioca pudding-like quality.

I question whether regular consumption will do anything to keep my hair black over the years, but I do love the taste. Growing up, I always loved the sweet dessert soups that were served at the end of Chinese dinners (red bean soup was another favorite) and they certainly hit the spot in the winter.

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